LEBANON: U.S. journalists reportedly under arrest in Syria

BEIRUT, October 9, 2008 (MENASSAT) – Various media are reporting that the two missing American journalists have been found in Syria where they are apparently under arrest for illegally crossing into Syria.

Al-Jazeera reported on Thursday that Holli Chmela and Taylor Luck, two Amman-based journalists who had not been heard of since October 1 were safe in Syria.

The Lebanese TV station LBC quoted a diplomatic source saying that the two were under arrest in Syria for entering the country illegally. Earlier, the Lebanese authorities said there was no record of the two leaving Lebanon.

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1:42 PM: The U.S. Embassy in Damascus says it has received no information from the Syrian authorities about the whereabouts of Chmela and Luck.

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2:15 PM: Syrian authorities arrested the two US citizens when they tried to enter Syrian territories with informal documents, which aroused the suspicions of border control, an informed source in Syria told NOW Lebanon.

Taylor Luck and Holli Chmela were then taken for questioning on charges of identity usurpation, the source added.

The two gave testimonies that did not match, the source added, which aroused more suspicions that they could be members of espionage cells hostile to Syria and possibly even Israeli cells.

Syrian authorities made "necessary calls" to inform the "concerned parties" of the US citizens’ detention, adding that the arrests did not have any motives other than investigating the false documents.

The source said that Chmela and Luck may be handed over to the US Embassy in Jordan.

More details later...