Engel and five crew members were held captive by armed gunmen for five days while covering the country’s descent into civil war in late 2012.
After they were released, Engel reported on-air and elsewhere that he believed his captors were Shiite militiamen loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The New York Times recently uncovered information indicating that the kidnappers were not Shiite but actually part of a criminal gang with shifting allegiances.
Engel said the Times’ information prompted him and several NBC News producers to re-report the story and circumstances of the kidnapping. He published the findings Wednesday evening in a lengthy post on NBC News’ website.
Questions about what happened to Engel and crew have undoubtedly taken on heightened urgency at a time when NBC News’ operations are under deep scrutiny. The Peacock is looking to recover from a series of reporting gaffes and the embarrassment of having to suspend its chief anchor, Brian Williams, for misrepresenting his own experiences during the Iraq War.
In Engel’s case, there is no suggestion that he and the others misrepresented any aspect of the incident. But new information indicates that the perpetrators went to great lengths to disguise themselves as Shiite militiamen amid the backdrop of political chaos in the nation.
Engel is a respected globe-trotting correspondent for NBC News, known for his willingness to parachute into dangerous hot spots. NBC News no doubt was eager to have Engel probe for new details to avoid any suggestion that the reporting at the time was misleading. Engel noted in his report that the rise of ISIS in Syria and the region has made it harder for them to return to the specific area where the group was abducted.