Friday, October 10, 2008


Two American journalists who went missing on Oct. 1 are safe at the U.S. Embassy in Damascus after they were detained by Syrian authorities while trying to enter that country from Lebanon, the State Department said Thursday.

A department spokesman said Holli Chmela, 27, and Taylor Luck, 23, are in good condition and getting in touch with their families. Their disappearance earlier this month prompted the U.S. Embassy in Beirut to appeal for information about their whereabouts.

The pair worked for the English-language Jordan Times in Amman. They were reported missing by their families after they failed to return to Amman last weekend from a vacation in Lebanon.

The two had last been heard from on Oct. 1, when they checked out of a Beirut hotel, reportedly headed to the northern port city of Tripoli, site of sectarian clashes and attacks by Islamic militants in recent months.

They appeared to have walked into a Syrian troop buildup deployed on the border to crack down on smuggling and Islamic militants that Damascus says infiltrate Syria from the area.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry said Miss Chmela and Mr. Luck were detained Thursday for illegally crossing from northern Lebanon with smugglers.

Smugglers are known to be active on the border, bringing goods back and forth along its unpaved mountain roads, as well as smuggling in people, mainly workers looking for jobs in Lebanon.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Embassy in Beirut had warned of potential violence targeting Americans in Lebanon.

Mr. Luck, of Oak Park, Ill., has been a reporter at the Jordan Times for 18 months. He graduated last year from Beloit College in Wisconsin as an international relations major, said the school’s public affairs director Ron Nief.

Miss Chmela worked as a clerk for the New York Times in Washington before going to Jordan earlier this year to study Arabic. She worked as an intern at the Jordan Times for three months.

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