DAMASCUS, Syria, (AP) – Two American journalists who went missing during a vacation in Lebanon were arrested Thursday in Syria after they crossed the Lebanese-Syrian border with the help of smugglers, Syrian officials said.
Holli Chmela, 27, and Taylor Luck, 23 were detained after they crossed into the country, the Syrian foreign ministry said. It said the two will be handed over to the U.S. Embassy following a completion of “necessary measures.”
An official with the U.S. Embassy in Damascus confirmed two Americans are being held by Syrian authorities and added that the embassy was trying to confirm their identities.
The U.S. Embassy in Beirut announced Wednesday the two went missing during a vacation in Lebanon and have not been heard from since Oct. 1, when they headed to northern Lebanon en route to Syria.
Chmela and Luck had been working for the Jordan Times and were expected back in Amman on Saturday.
The embassy said Chmela and Luck were reportedly headed for the northern Lebanese port city of Tripoli, a predominantly Sunni Muslim city where militants and Islamic fundamentalists are known to be active.
Chmela and Luck arrived in Lebanon on Sept. 29 from the Jordanian capital of Amman on vacation. They told a friend on Oct. 1 that they were traveling from Beirut to Tripoli through the coastal town of Byblos that day, the U.S. embassy said.
From Tripoli, they planned to cross by land into Syria, it added.
Luck has been a reporter at the Jordan Times for the past 18 months. Chmela worked as an intern at the English-language daily for three months before leaving the job several weeks ago, the paper’s chief editor, Samir Barhoumeh, said.