After five days in captivity, during which he was subjected to psychological torture and mock executions, NBC News’ Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel was freed last night in Syria. Engel had disappeared on Thursday along with his crew soon after they crossed the border into Syria from Turkey. Engel had been traveling with Syrian rebels when a group of about 15 gunmen “jumped out the trees and bushes" and abducted them.

Engel's captors said they were loyal to the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and he believes they were members of the “shabiha” militia, trained by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. "We weren't physically beaten or tortured," Engel told the Today Show this morning. "It was a lot of psychological torture, threats of being killed. They made us choose which one of us would be shot first and when we refused there were mock shootings. They pretended to shoot Ghazi [Balkiz, an NBC producer] several times."

Engel and his team were repeatedly moved from one location to the next, and transferred to other groups of captors. During one such transfer last night, en route to a Hezbollah stronghold inside Syria, Engel's captors were stopped at a checkpoint manned by members of the Ahrar al-Sham brigade, a Syrian rebel group. There was a confrontation and gunfire, which resulted in the deaths of two captors, according to NBC. The rest escaped.

Here's Engel and two crew members speaking to The Today Show this morning:

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For days, NBC News persuaded American news outlets to keep silent on the abduction, despite widespread reports in Turkish media and on Twitter. Gawker agreed to abide by the request for 24 hours or more. Reporter John Cook sheds light on the blackout:

The rationale for the blackout was offered in off-the-record conversations, so I can't present their argument here. But I will say this: No one told me anything that indicated a specific, or even general, threat to Engel's safety. No one said, "If you report this, then we know, or suspect, that X, Y, or Z may happen." It was infinitely more vague and general than that.

As I wrote in the post, when the New York Times maintained a blackout about David Rohde, the rationale was clear: I was directly told that the Times had reason to believe that the people who had Rohde would harm him if news got out. There was nothing approaching that level of specificity or argumentation here. I would not have written a post if someone had told me that there was a reasonable or even remote suspicion that anything specific would happen if I wrote the post.

Also: There was in practice no blackout. Xinhua and Breitbart had published English language accounts. There were probably like 100 posts to Twitter per minute about him. This was a situation where the information was freely available on the internet, and in the region—these are large Turkish outlets reporting this information. It was out.

When Engel was promoted to Chief Foreign Correspondent in 2008, NBC News president Steve Capus said, “There aren’t enough superlatives to describe the work that Richard has done in some of the most dangerous places on earth for NBC News. His reporting, his expertise on the situation in the Middle East, his professionalism and his commitment to telling the story of what is happening there is unparalleled.”