Canadian UN adviser freed after 8 months in captivity in Syria
Published Thursday, October 17, 2013 9:24AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, October 17, 2013 10:29PM EDT
A Canadian UN worker held for eight months by a rebel group in Syria has been freed.
Carl Campeau went missing in the Golan Heights along the Syrian-Israeli border in February. He was working at the time as a legal adviser to the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), which has been monitoring the area since 1974.
He appeared on Syrian state television Thursday saying he managed to escape his captors earlier this week after they failed to lock the door of his room.
Following the state TV interview, Campeau was transferred from Syria's Foreign Ministry to a UN representative in Syria. A UN spokesperson told CTV News that Campeau appears to be in good health, but did not reveal his current whereabouts.
At the time of Campeau's abduction, he had been stationed at a UN base on the Syrian side of the demilitarized zone separating Israel and Syria, an area that rebels took control of after Syrian forces abandoned the area.
Reuters reported at the time that sources had told them that Campeau had been taken by a rebel brigade and held for ransom.
It's not clear how Campeau's release was secured. He told Syrian state television Thursday that he was able to escape his captors.
"I was held prisoner for eight months, and I managed to escape," he said in English. "They forgot to lock the door to my room."
The state TV translator then quotes Campeau saying: “The terrorist kidnappers came from several countries … They are groups that do not know mercy.”
A spokesperson for Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development says the department is "thrilled" to learn of Campeau's release.
"We would like to extend our thanks to our colleagues at the United Nations for their efforts in securing Mr. Campeau's release," DFATD spokesperson Jean-Bruno Villeneuve said in an emailed statement.
"His ordeal is a reminder to all Canadians of the incredibly dangerous situation in Syria. Canada continues to advise Canadians to avoid all travel to Syria."
He added that the Canadian ambassador to Lebanon has already spoken with Campeau to offer him whatever support he requires.