UNITED NATIONS (AP) — A Canadian lawyer abducted while serving with the U.N. observer force in the Golan Heights was quoted as saying he escaped when gunmen forgot to lock the room where he was being held.
Carl Campeau, who was abducted in February, said he left the villa in Syria and ran into the fields, eventually making his way to freedom, the Syrian news agency SANA reported Thursday.
U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said Campeau is now with the United Nations and "initial indications are that he is in good health." The Canadian government said it is "thrilled" that Campeau was free.
Campeau called his kidnapping "a nightmare and a terrifying experience," SANA said. He added that there were Iraqis, Saudis, Jordanians and Chechens among his captors, the news agency said.
Earlier, SANA said he was kidnapped by "terrorists" — the government's term for opposition supporters — in the Damascus suburb of Khan al-Sheik.
The news agency said the Syrian Foreign Ministry handed over Campeau to the U.N. resident representative in Syria.
Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad was quoted by SANA as saying that authorities had "exerted all possible efforts to liberate him from his captors."
Jean-Bruno Villeneuve, a spokesman for Canada's foreign affairs department, said in an e-mail that Canada's ambassador to Lebanon has spoken with Campeau "and we are offering him whatever support he requires."
Campeau was serving as a legal adviser for UNDOF, the mission established in May 1974 following intensified firing on the Israel-Syria border after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in 1967 and Syria wants the land returned in exchange for peace. The U.N. mission has a little over 1,000 troops.
Mroue reported from Beirut. Rob Gillies contributed to the report from Toronto.