American journalist Bilal Abdul Kareem has been freed by Hay’yat Tahir Al Sham – a Syrian militant group–after being held captive for six months.
Kareem was detained by HTS in August 2020, in Northwest Syria after he had highlighted allegations of abuse and torture done to detainees by the militant group in a prison. HTS had sentenced Kareem a year and a half of detention but agreed to an early release after a local leader had filed a petition to drop charges against him.
According to Middle East Eye, HTS had released Abdul Kareem after he was charged with “working with groups that harm public security” and “incitement” against the militant group. It also charged the US journalist of “publishing and promoting lies that affect institutions without evidence or proof”.
Moazzam Begg, the outreach director for UK-based human rights group CAGE, posted a picture on Twitter that showed Abdul Kareem standing next to British aid worker Tauqir Sharif, who was also detained by HTS last year.
Kareem converted to Islam in 2002 and is known for reporting the Syrian war. Media networks including the BBC, CNN, and Sky News have featured his work. Kareem is best known for his reports from the final days of the battle for Aleppo in December 2016, when he remained with rebel fighters under bombardment and was transported with them out of the city’s eastern neighbourhoods as part of a ceasefire deal.
Kareem said that he feared execution at the Syrian government’s hands over his coverage of the country’s civil war. He has also said that he was placed on a US “kill list” and was targeted by US missiles on multiple occasions in 2016.
Earlier this month, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) had called for HTS to release Abdul Kareem. Conditions for his release, however, remain unclear.