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Missing Americans Freed From Syrian Jail

The U.S. State Department says two American journalists detained by Syrian authorities have been released and are safe at the U.S. Embassy in Damascus.

A spokesman says Holli Chmela and Taylor Luck are in good condition and getting in touch with their families after being picked up while allegedly trying to cross illegally into Syria from neighboring Lebanon. Their disappearance this month prompted the U.S. Embassy in Beirut to appeal for information about their whereabouts.

They were reported missing by their families after they failed to return to Amman, Jordan, last weekend from a vacation in Lebanon. They had last been heard from on Oct. 1, when they checked out of their Beirut hotel. The pair work for an English-language newspaper, the Jordan Times in Amman.

Smugglers are known to be active on the Lebanon-Syria border where they use unpaved mountainous roads to bring goods to both countries. Gangs are also known to smuggle people, mainly workers looking for jobs in Lebanon.

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, of Oak Park, Illinois, has been a reporter at the Jordan Times for the past 18 months. He graduated last year from Beloit College in Wisconsin as an international relations major but also studied Arabic, said the school's public affairs director Ron Nief. He said the college awarded Luck a grant to return to Jordan for study.

Chmela worked as a clerk for The New York Times in Washington before leaving earlier this year to study Arabic in Jordan, according to Times' Bureau Chief Dean Baquet. In a memo to staff about the disappearance, he said she later took an internship with the Jordan Times.

She 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.