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Three Spanish journalists feared kidnapped in Syria

The men went missing two days after entering Aleppo, apparently to film a documentary for Spanish TV
American journalist James Foley was one of the first westerners to be kidnapped and later executed in Syria (AFP)

Three Spanish journalists have gone missing and are feared to have been kidnapped in Syria, the Spanish Federation of Journalists said late on Tuesday. 

It remains unclear which group could have orchestrated the kidnapping, believed to have happened around the northern city of Aleppo, but foreign journalists have been frequent targets in the Syria conflict in recent years.

The men were named by the Spanish Federation of Journalists as Antonio Pampliega, Jose Manuel Lopez and Angel Sastre. All three are seasoned reporters with extensive experience working either in Syria or other conflicts across the region including Iraq and Afghanistan.

Elsa Gonzalez, the president of the association, told Spanish media that the men entered Syria on 10 July but that contact was lost two days later. Gonzalez did not know whether the three were working together, though Spanish national television station TVE said they were doing a joint investigative report. Spanish diplomatic sources later confirmed the reports to the Guardian. 

The men's families called for "respect" and "the greatest possible discretion" regarding the possible kidnapping, a statement quoted by various Spanish media said. 

The announcement comes less than a week after reports emerged that a Japanese journalist was also believed to have been kidnapped in Syria.

Jumpei Yasuda, 41, who had been reporting from Turkey, told a close friend on 23 June that he was planning to return to Syria, and has not been heard from since. His last tweet spoke of the increasing challenges to his work which he described as "no laughing matter" before saying it would be hard to continue making real life updates on the situation.

Aleppo is fiercely divided between government-held areas and those under rebel control. Rebel factions allied to al-Qaeda’s Syria branch the Nusra Front have vowed to try and flush out the government and have carried out several large-scale attacks recently. The Islamic State (IS) group is also believed to be building up its presence in the city and has made recent inroads in Aleppo province.

IS first publicly beheaded American journalist James Foley in August 2014, before staging a series of high-profile beheadings of Western journalists and aid workers that helped to rally support for the US-led anti-IS air campaign in Iraq and Syria.

The group has also executed two Japanese journalists, as well as scores of Syrian and Iraqi journalists and citizen reporters.

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