DAMASCUS, Aug. 16 (Xinhua) -- The Syrian army carried out a " qualitative" operation against rebels on Thursday and freed the kidnapped journalists of the pro-government al-Ekhbaria TV, the state-run SANA news agency said.
Four staffers of al-Ekhbaria were snitched by armed rebels Friday when they were covering the unrest in the Damascus suburb of al-Tal.
Three of them appeared in an online video hours after the kidnapping, saying that the other staffer was killed. An alleged defector was standing near them, and claimed that the fourth reporter was killed due to the Syrian army's bombardment over the area.
The three staffers were freed Thursday and received by the state TV, recounting details of their days in captive.
They said around 25 armed men captured them in al-Tal and stripped them of their money, cell phones, flak jackets and IDs. They also said their fellow, Hatem Abu-Yahia, was killed by the kidnappers "in cold blood."
Yara Saleh, one of the freed reporters, said the way Abu-Yahia was killed reflects the criminal nature of the kidnapers. She expressed deep gratitude to the Syrian army for its efforts to free them.
Another freed reporter, Hussam Aboud, said Abu-Yahia was shot around 30 times by the armed men, who also stepped on his dead body after he was killed.
Meanwhile, the ministry of information issued Thursday a statement of appreciation for the army's successful operation that led to the release of the journalists.
Attacks on local journalists have hit a new high lately with reports of missing, kidnapping or killing of reporters become increasingly common.
The Syrian government claimed Saturday that an "armed terrorist group" assassinated Ali Abbas, a journalist working for the state news agency SANA, at his residence in Jdaidet Artouz area in the Damascus suburb.
On Aug. 4, al-Nusra Front, a shadowy group behind a number of suicide attacks in Syria over the past 17 months, claimed responsibility for the killing of a famous Syrian broadcaster, Mohammad al-Said, who was kidnapped near his house in Jdaidet Artouz by an armed group on July 20.
The incidents came at a time when the Syrian security forces were allegedly continuing the apprehension of journalist-activists, prompting the New York-based International Committee to Protect Journalists to plead with the government to release no less than 13 journalists held in Syrian jails.
Activists said hundreds of opposition activists are being detained in Syrian prisons.
Babacar Gaye, head of the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria, condemned recent attacks on Syrian journalists, saying that "we condemn violence against the media coming from any of the sides."