"It is so cool to be home"
After nearly six weeks held captive by kidnappers in Syria, the journalists Magnus Falkehed and Niclas Hammarström landed today back on Swedish soil and were reunited with their families. "It is so cool to be here."
At a press conference on Thursday evening, the tired Swedes began by thanking Sweden's National Police, the Foreign Ministry and other officials for the work they performed in helping to free them from their captors in Syria. "They have our eternal gratitude."
Magnus Falkehed also thanked the Swedish Armed Forces' survival school:"I would also like to thank the armed forces' defence survival school. Without their education we would not have lasted ten minutes." The last part of the course was focused on a similar kidnap situation.
Niclas Hammarström said that every week they had a pistol or rifle put to their heads and were told that they would be shot.
To survive, they supported each other. They washed each other's clothes and came out with words of encouragement. The key, said Magnus Falkehed, was to keep clean and portion out the food so that it would be enough.The relationship with the kidnappers, they said, hung on keep their heads high - to stay fresh and reach out to everyone they met. "Being people simply. It was not easy, but you got to show them that "we are no potato sacks or animals".
The two colleagues were moved around in different houses and according to Hammarström, it seemed that the soldiers who guarded them belonged to the same group. Falkehed perceived that they went about 40 minutes south of Yabrud to the first house where they were held. Then they were transported short distances to other locations.
An escape attempt led to Niclas Hammarström being shot in the leg and both said that they were subjected to beatings by the kidnappers. They said that they did not know what lay behind their release, responding to a question about whether the kidnappers had been paid in exchange for their freedom. Of their sudden release, the kidnappers gave no warning, but suddenly jerked Niclas Hammarström awake one night. He said he did not know whether he would live or die. Magnus Falkehed told how one of the guards showed signs that his colleague would be killed, but another made a sign of an aircraft. It gave him hope, even though he did not know which of the two guards were right. Then it took three days of waiting before he was released.
They were asked at the press conference whether they had considered the security situation in Syria. " We thought of safety all the time. Then we came to a roadblock that we had not expected and then it happened," said Hammarström.
The pair of freelancers had time to work for just six days in November when their trip in Syria took a dramatic turn. The kidnappers struck at a checkpoint and abducted Magnus Falkehed and Niclas Hammarström.
Both the journalists expressed their desire for a bit of peace and quiet after returning home. "We would appreciate it if we get to be left alone after the press conference," said Niclas Hammarström. "We have a pent-up need to talk to our families," added Magnus Falkehed. When asked if they will continue to travel in the future, Hammarström replied: "Not any time soon, but I will continue to travel, certainly. I will continue the work as a photographer."
The two journalists landed at Arlanda Airport at 4.P.M. They were then shown into a room where their loved ones were waiting.