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Nusra briefly abducts media activists from Syria rebel town

Two prominent Syrian media activists were arrested and their offices ransacked by militants from al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate
A photo shows Syrian activists Hadi Al-Abdallah and Raed Fares (Twitter)

Syria's al-Qaeda affiliate briefly detained two of the country's most prominent media activists who worked at a radio station in the northwestern Idlib province on Sunday, their employer said.

Raed Fares and Hadi al-Abdallah were released about 12 hours after their abduction, Fresh FM said in a statement posted on Facebook.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group confirmed the release, saying al-Nusra freed the pair after "interrogating them".

Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said they had been arrested because the radio had "broadcast content against Islamic law, like songs, in violation of an agreement" with al-Nusra.

"Al-Nusra Front kidnapped at 06:55 [04:55 GMT] activists Hadi al-Abdallah and Raed Fares in the offices of Fresh FM where they work and live in Kafranbel," said Soner Taleb, head of media at the Syrian National Coalition.

Fares, Fresh FM's director, has previously been detained by al-Nusra fighters, who disapprove of what they term the station's "secular tendency and support of apostates," Taleb said.

Abdallah shot to prominence in 2011 when anti-government protests erupted across Syria, before the country's descent into civil war. Last year he was one of the journalists to interview al-Nusra's head, Abu Mohammad al-Jolani.

"Abdallah had used his al-Nusra connections to keep his freedom, but this time the jihadists detained them both and destroyed and confiscated their belongings at the station," Taleb said. 

Kafranbel, in northwestern Idlib province, has been under rebel control since 2012 and is well known for its creative and often humorous protest banners, in English and Arabic, which are widely circulated online.

Al-Nusra is part of a powerful alliance known as the Army of Conquest that captured Idlib earlier this year, and it has a strong presence in other parts of the country.