Spanish journalist kidnapped in Syria released

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DAMASCUS, Syria — A Spanish journalist kidnapped by militants from a breakaway al-Qaida group in Syria crossed the border into Turkey on Sunday, his newspaper reported.

The news of the reporter’s freedom came as his captors, fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, fled areas near the Turkish border, leaving behind at least two mass graves, one containing 17 bodies, activists said.

Correspondent Marc Marginedas was abducted Sept. 4 near the central Syrian city of Hama by Islamic State fighters. He was “moved repeatedly” while in captivity, and his captors accused him of being a spy before his release, his newspaper El Periodico said.

The newspaper did not elaborate on how Marginedas was released or whether a ransom was paid. It said he was undergoing medical tests in Turkey.

Syria, engulfed in a three-year conflict, is the most dangerous country in the world for journalists. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists estimates more than 30 international and local reporters are now in captivity.

The vast majority of the kidnappings in the past six months have occurred in opposition-held parts of northern and eastern Syria, where the Islamic State was particularly strong — and widely despised for their heavy-handed tactics.

Since December, a loose coalition of rebels has been fighting the militants.

On Friday, Islamic State fighters began withdrawing from parts of the northern province of Aleppo, after the powerful al-Qaida Syria affiliate, the Nusra Front, ordered them to accept mediation by leading clerics to end infighting or be “expelled.”