Two Turkish journalists missing in Syria are being held by Syrian government forces, Turkey’s deputy prime minister says.
Bulent Arinc said on Thursday that the reporters were safe and that the Turkish government was trying to get them released.
The Turkish state news agency, Anatolia, said the journalists had been handed over to Syrian intelligence by pro-government thugs.
One of the journalists, cameraman Hamit Coskun, was injured and he might have been tortured, the agency said, quoting local sources.
Syrian intelligence units took the journalists out of the village of Al-Fua near the opposition stronghold of Idlib in two armoured vehicles, Anatolia said.
Adem Ozkose, Middle East correspondent for Gercek Hayat magazine and columnist for Milat newspaper, and Coskun, a freelance, crossed into Syria from Antakya in southern Turkey a week ago.
Families of the two journalists last heard from them four days ago, when they called to say they had reached the Syrian city of Idlib, where government forces on Wednesday re-established full control of the city following days of deadly clashes with opposition fighters.
The journalists’ disappearance comes days after media reports that Syrian authorities issued a warning that all foreign journalists who entered the country illegally would be subject to legal action.
The US-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said it holds Syrian authorities responsible for the safety and well-being of the reporters.
“Authorities must ensure their safety and release them immediately,” Mohamed Abdel Dayem, the group’s Middle East and North Africa programme co-ordinator, said.
CPJ says eight local and international journalists have been killed on duty in Syria since November, “at least five in circumstances that raise questions about government culpability”.
Government troops began an assault on Idlib province near the Turkish border on March 9 and appear to have now regained control of the province’s main city.
More than one hundred people are confirmed dead in Idlib and hundreds more are missing.