Spanish journalists Javier Espinosa and Ricardo Garcia Vilanova have been kidnapped in Syria by a radical Islamist group linked to al-Qaeda.
El Mundo reporter Javier Espinosa and freelance photographer Ricardo Garcia Vilanova were seized by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The Spanish newspaper said they were taken at a checkpoint in northern Raqqa province near the Turkish border.
Meanwhile, Syrian activists said a leading human rights lawyer, Razan Zaytouna, had been abducted near Damascus on Tuesday.
Razan Zaytouna was seized along with three other activists from the eastern suburb of Douma after armed men broke into the office of the Violations Documentation Centre (VDC), which monitors casualties.
The Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC), a network of opposition activists of which Razan Zaytouna is a founding member, demanded their immediate and unconditional release.
There was no claim of responsibility for the abduction, but Razan Zaytouna is reported to have recently received threats from Islamist rebel groups.
Spanish journalists Javier Espinosa and Ricardo Garcia Vilanova have been kidnapped in Syria
In 2011, Razan Zaytouna was given the Anna Politkovskaya Award by the NGO Reach All Women in War for risking her life by breaking the Syrian government’s media blackout to report on the brutal crackdown on peaceful protests.
El Mundo said the two journalists had been trying to leave Syria at the end of a two-week reporting mission when they were taken on September 16.
Four members of the Free Syrian Army – the main Western-backed rebel group – who were protecting them were also captured. The four were later released.
El Mundo said news of the kidnapping was kept quiet while it held indirect communications with the captors, who have still not made any demands.
“Unfortunately, these gestures have yielded no result and we have concluded, the families in agreement with the newspaper, that the time has come to share our concern and indignation,”El Mundo director Pedro Ramirez told a news conference in Madrid.
“We believe they are alive and we believe they are well,” he said.
Hours after El Mundo announced the kidnapping, Javier Espinosa’s wife, Monica Prieto, spoke at an emotional news conference in Beirut, urging the journalists’ captors to free them.
Monica Prieto said the pair had “travelled a dozen times to Syria to document war crimes, risking their lives, and becoming brothers with the Syrians in their fear, misery and humanitarian crisis”.
“Javier and Ricardo are not your enemy. Please, honour the revolution they protected, and set them free.”
Javier Espinosa has been a Middle East correspondent for El Mundo since 2002 and is based in Beirut.
Ricardo Garcia Vilanova has worked for various news outlets including the New York Times, the Washington Post and the AFP news agency.
Spanish newspaper El Mundo has published what it alleges are documents showing PM Mariano Rajoy and other top politicians received illicit payments.
El Mundo said it had original ledger entries handwritten by the former treasurer of the governing Popular Party (PP), Luis Barcenas.
It said it had delivered the documents to the High Court.
Mariano Rajoy and other PP members have repeatedly denied that they received illegal payments.
Another Spanish paper, El Pais, published similar documents earlier this year.
It is claimed that Luis Barcenas ran a PP slush fund that took donations from construction magnates and distributed them to party leaders in cash.
Luis Barcenas is in custody facing trial for corruption and tax fraud. He denies the allegations.
El Mundo has published what it alleges are documents showing PM Mariano Rajoy and other top politicians received illicit payments
However, in an interview published in El Mundo on Sunday, Luis Barcenas for the first time admitted that the handwriting in the ledger was his.
Luis Barcenas added that the photocopies originally published by El Pais were a fraction of the documents he had in his possession.
El Mundo said the documents it had seen showed that Mariano Rajoy received payments in 1997, 1998 and 1999 when he was a minister in the government of Jose Maria Aznar.
They included, it said, two payments to Mariano Rajoy of 2.1 million pesetas (12,600 euros; $16,000) in 1998.
The alleged payments are said to have been undeclared and untaxed.
Spanish opposition leader Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba in February called on Mariano Rajoy to resign over the allegations.
“The Luis Barcenas originals published by El Mundo today pulverize the alibi used until now by the PP to deny the authenticity of its ex-treasurer’s papers,” the newspaper wrote.
The PP responded with a statement saying: “The Popular Party reiterates that it does not know of the notes nor their content, and it does not in any way recognize them as the accounts of this political organization.”
The allegations have caused anger among Spaniards already suffering a deep and long recession and biting austerity cuts.