On December 13, 2012, American Journalist Engel and four crew members, Aziz Akyavas, John Kooistra, Ghazi Balkiz, and Ian Rivers, were abducted in Syria. They were moved to various locations throughout the time they were held captive and were psychologically tortured. Engel and his crew said they believed that a Shabiha group loyal to al-Assad were behind the abduction, and that the crew was freed by the Ahrar ash-Sham group five days later.
According to Jamie Dettmer, writing in The Daily Beast, this narrative was later questioned by unnamed sources, who believed Engel and his team had been kidnapped by rogue rebel groups opposed to the Assad regime.
NBC News had requested a news blackout out of concern for Engel and his crew’s safety. On December 18 it was reported by the U.S. media that they had been kidnapped but were released physically unharmed.
Engel recounted his terrifying experience in an editorial, “The Hostage”, which appeared in the April 2013 edition of Vanity Fair.
On April 15, 2015 NBC revised the Engel kidnapping account. They reported it was most likely that he had been abducted by a Sunni faction opposed to the government, not a Shia group.