War reporter was bound, beaten and shot twice in Syria by a Muslim ‘rebel’ he considered a friend. Anthony Loyd and photographer Jack Hill were snatched by gun-toting Hakim Anza’s gang – just hours after they had been guests in the warlord’s home.
UK Mirror via SheikYermami (h/t Liz) Times correspondent Loyd, 47, who feared he faced certain death, labeled the behavior of Anza in war-torn Syria “flawless treachery.” Loyd first met Hakim two years ago. The accountant, in his 30s, had been one of the earliest to rebel against President Assad.
Writing in The Times, Loyd said: “Jack and I had stayed with him several times. “I had seen him cry over the bodies of his dead fighters, exalt over the lives of his three young children, and I had slept and eaten on the same floors with him in Aleppo’s urban front lines. “I considered Hakim a friend. Part of the reason I visited him before going to Turkey, was to congratulate him on his daughter’s birth.”
But he had a nasty shock in store. As Hill, Loyd, their local fixer and a bodyguard made their way towards the Turkish border, their car was flagged down by a camouflaged man in a 4×4. Four gunmen leapt out and bundled the group, handcuffed and blindfolded, into the vehicle before driving them to a lock-up garage in the northern Syrian city of Tal Rifat – where Anza was based.
Loyd recognized one of his captors as a member of Hakim’s gang, who had served him breakfast that morning. The journalist managed to get free after Jack and the pair’s fixer Hamza forced their way out of the car boot.
Loyd then made a daring bid for freedom: “I had climbed the lock-up stairs and was making my escape across the roofs, my hands still bound. “This went well, until the roofs ran out. For a time I squeezed flat in a narrow slash of shadow against a water tank, planning to wait until darkness. But people in the street had seen my rooftop dash and were pointing out my position to gunmen below.
“I scrambled down a ladder and, as women fled a courtyard below, I ran into a private home, clamped a kitchen knife between my teeth and attempted to saw through the cuffs securing my wrists. “Then two Kalashnikov bullets hit the wall beside me.”
Cornered, he faced a terrifying showdown with Hakim: “His men burst in, dragged me out and started beating me round the head with rifle butts. I was covered in blood on the ground when Hakim walked up, white with rage. “‘I thought you were my friend,’ I told him. ‘No friends,’ he replied, shooting me twice in the ankle just to have the satisfaction of crippling me.”
Another of Hakim’s henchmen, who had been in a struggle with photographer Hill during their break for freedom, was then allowed to set upon Loyd. “After punching and kicking me for what seemed like eternity, he picked up a rock and smashed it across my head.
He was handed to doctors, and Hakim’s superiors in the Islamist Front ordered Hakim to flee. Loyd and Hill safely reached Turkey on Wednesday. Shameless Hakim later contacted Loyd on Friday using web-chat service Skype to accuse him of being a CIA spy. Loyd said today: “His greatest crime was to rob our notebooks, cameras and video.