Polish photojournalist kidnapped in Syria: RSF

25th July 2013, Comments 0 comments

A Polish photojournalist has been kidnapped by masked gunmen in northern Syria, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said on Thursday, calling for his "immediate and unconditional release".

Marcin Suder, a freelancer who works for the Corbis agency and other outlets, was abducted on Wednesday during a raid on a media centre in Saraqeb, in the northwestern province of Idlib, RSF said.

"The precise identity of his kidnappers is still unknown. No group has claimed responsibility and no demands have been made," RSF said in a statement.

The Polish foreign ministry said it was looking into reports of the kidnapping but could not yet confirm it.

"A crisis unit was created on Wednesday. We are checking all possible leads," ministry spokesman Marcin Bosacki said, adding that Warsaw was in touch with officials in Turkey and Syria.

"A kidnapping is the most likely theory. We also think it was probably a kidnapping, but we are not 100 percent sure. The situation is very delicate."

The Local Coordination Committees, a grassroots network of activists in Syria, also reported the kidnapping, indicating that radical Islamist groups may have been involved.

"An unknown armed group of 15 masked and armed individuals... raided the media office of Saraqeb city," the LCC said in an English-language statement.

The group said the men "assaulted" Menhal Barish, a respected activist from Saraqeb, and kidnapped the Polish journalist, who was "training the activists on photography and covering events".

After beating Barish, "the group took the (Polish) journalist to an unknown destination", the LCC added.

Paulina Okonska, Suder's girlfriend and co-worker at Poland's Melon photo agency, said the 36-year-old was an experienced war photographer who had worked in Somalia, South Sudan and Chechnya, among other places.

She told AFP on Wednesday that her last contact with him had been on Tuesday night. "Since then he hasn't been responding by email or Skype," she said.

RSF describes Syria as "one of the world's most dangerous countries for media personnel", with at least 24 journalists killed and 15 foreign journalists disappearing or being abducted since the start of the conflict in March 2011.

© 2013 AFP

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