Washington: The Turkish authorities have released an American journalist detained for the last two months after she fled Syria claiming to have been kidnapped by militants, a senior US official said on Thursday.
Lindsey Snell is returning to the United States, the official said.
She was arrested on August 6 for “violating a military zone” after she returned from war-torn Syria, where she said she had been filming civilians affected by air strikes.
Snell’s Twitter biography identifies her as an Istanbul-based video journalist who has contributed to several western networks and news organisations, including MSNBC, Vice News and ABC.
On Facebook, she describes herself as hailing from Daytona Beach, Florida, and to have graduated from the University of Florida in 2005. She is a Muslim and wears a headscarf in pictures.
The Committee to Protect Journalists press freedom watchdog welcomed Snell’s release.
“Lindsey Snell’s release is a relief, but scores of journalists are still jailed in Turkey,” the New York-based group’s Nina Ognianova said, adding that Turkish police had raided Snell’s Istanbul apartment, confiscating a video camera, computers and other equipment.
“We call on Turkish authorities to return Snell’s confiscated equipment, and to free all the journalists still behind bars in the country for doing their jobs.”
Writing on Twitter before her arrest, Snell referred to having been kidnapped for 10 days by militants from the Al-Nusra Front — which has changed its name to Fateh Al Sham Front — before escaping with the aid of a “brave man on a motorcycle.”
On her Facebook page, she said she had been able to document her time in captivity with her cell phone.
“It’s a crazy story,” she wrote.
“A cave prison (the previous tenant of my cell had marked his days in residence in blood on the walls), masked villains, motorcycle escapes and disguises. I can’t wait to share the details.”
Snell was arrested as she crossed the border back into Turkey’s southern Hatay province, which is located near Syria’s Aleppo governorate — currently the scene of fierce fighting between Russian-backed Syrian regime forces and rebel groups.
On her return flight to New York on Wednesday, Snell said she was concerned about her husband Suliman Wardak, who was also arrested in Turkey after travelling there to help with her case, The Guardian newspaper reported.
“They still have my husband. I don’t feel free,” the newspaper reported her as saying.