Engel and team describe terrifying capture in Syria
UNDATED (NBC) -- NBC Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel and his team recounted the terrifying ordeal of being held captive in Syria for five days.
Engel and his crew raised their hands when asked if they thought their lives would end with their capture.
"It’s part of breaking you down. They don’t want you to be strong. They want you to be docile. So they would blindfold you. You don’t know what’s really going on. They take you outside forcefully. ‘Everybody up, outside.’ They line you up against a wall. You hear weapons loading and unloading. You hear plastic wrap on a tarp being set out in front of you. You think this is it. Then they leave you there for 30 minutes and just let the moment play out,” said Engel.
They also forced Engel and his crew to make a video.
"That was actually reassuring because OK, they’re not going to kill us now. They’re making a video that we're really hostages,” said Engel.
But there were moments of despair.
"The day of my wife’s birthday was Dec. 17. I started thinking about my family. I started thinking our families have no idea what is going on. They think that we are probably being tortured now. I started crying. But I didn’t want the guys to hear me crying because I didn’t want them to know, I didn’t want to bring down their spirits,” said a member of Engel’s crew.
In their captivity, they kept a big secret that would have been devastating had it come out.
A member of Engel’s team, Amar, is Syrian, is a defected soldier and has an uncle quite high in the Syrian army. Had they found out, Amar said, “They would have executed me immediately. No doubt about it.”
Their moment of freedom came when they arrived at a checkpoint with their captures.
“The gunmen in our car get out and are killed. Precision shots. No shots even hit our car. Its dark, it’s rainy, their headlights shining. The rebels advance on to the car and free us. We figure out who they are, they figure out who we are. We tried to thank them. This is a very religious group. They refused to accept any thanks. They said, ‘this is God.’"
When asked if the journalists would return to Syria, each member of the team said they would eventually return to their jobs.