German journalist who gave birth while being held as hostage in Syria is released

The 27-year-old freelance reporter and her child were released on Wednesday and they have both safely crossed the border into Turkey, the German foreign ministry said.
German journalist Janina Findeisen has been freed from captivity in Syria.

A German journalist who gave birth to a child while being held hostage by jihadists in Syria has been released.

Janina Findeisen was pregnant when she was kidnapped while reporting from Syria in October 2015. Two months later she gave birth to a son.

The 27-year-old freelance reporter and her child were released on Wednesday and they have both safely crossed the border into Turkey, the German foreign ministry said.

The kidnapping was not reported at the time under a news blackout requested by the German authorities.

It is not clear whether any ransom was paid to secure Ms Findeisen’s release. The German government maintains that it does not pay ransoms for hostages.

“The German woman and her child who came into the world in captivity are doing well under the circumstances and are under the care of German consular staff,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

“The government is relieved at the positive outcome of this case given the extraordinarily difficult situation in Syria.”

Much about the kidnapping remains unclear, including who was holding Ms Findeisen. The journalist has not been officially named, and German officials have declined to give further details.

She was first identified in a report in Germany’s Focus magazine in February, which said she was being held by “a criminal faction within the Nusra Front”, a jihadist group affiliated to Al-Qaeda.

The group had demanded a €5m (£4.3m) ransom for her release, according to the magazine. But the Nusra Front, which has since changed its name to Fateh al-Sham, said in a statement on Wednesday it had nothing to do with the kidnapping.

The jihadists claimed they had freed Ms Findeisen and her baby in a paramilitary operation. What little has been made public about the case emerged from details of a German police investigation leaked to Focus in February.

According to that report, which has never been officially confirmed, police believe Ms Findeisen may have been lured to Syria in a carefully planned abduction.

The journalist is thought to have travelled to the country after she was offered exclusive material on jihadists groups there. The offer is believed to have come from an unnamed woman in Germany. Two brothers from Bad Godesberg, just south of the former West German capital, Bonn, are also suspected to have been involved in enticingt Ms Findeisen to Syria.

One of the two has since been shot dead on the Iranian border, while his brother is believed to be in Iranian custody.

The case has parallels with the abduction of the murdered American journalist Daniel Pearl, who was lured to his kidnapping in Karachi in 2001 with a fake promise of an interview.

Ms Findeisen, who wrote extensively about jihadist preachers in Germany and had worked for Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper and NDR television, was no novice.

She took considerable care over her safety and often published her reports under a pseudonym.

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