Syria's deputy foreign minister Faisal al-Makdad, right, shakes hands with Yacoub El Hillo, a United Nations representative in Syria, as he hands over Carl Campeau, centre, a Canadian UN worker who was held captive for eight months in Syria, in this handout photograph distributed by Syria's national news agency, SANA. Handout/SANA/Reuters
A Canadian UN worker abducted eight months ago in Syria appeared on Syrian state television a free man after reportedly managing to escape his captors, who had forgotten to lock him in.
The United Nations confirmed Thursday that Carl Campeau, a legal adviser for the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), is free.
"He is now with the United Nations," the UN said in an email to CBC News. "Initial indications are that he is in good health."
According to Syrian state TV, which spoke with Campeau in an interview aired Thursday, he was abducted by rebel forces on Feb. 27 from Khan Al-Sheih, just outside the Syrian capital, Damascus.
Sporting a beard and wearing glasses, a blue shirt and a dark sweater, Campeau appeared fatigued but otherwise apparently well in a video recording of the interview seen by CBC.
He was also photographed with Faisal al-Miqdad, Syria’s deputy foreign minister. The media report said Campeau was able to escape earlier this week on the first day of the Eid holiday.
'They forgot to lock the door'
"I was held prisoner for eight months, and I managed to escape," Campeau could be heard saying in English during the interview before the broadcast switches to the voice of an Arabic translator.
"They forgot to lock the door to my room," he adds in English, before the translator quotes him as saying that “the terrorist kidnappers came from several countries … They are groups that do not know mercy.”
It is difficult to discern from the video whether those were Campeau’s actual words.
Reuters reported earlier that at the time of Campeau's disappearance, a rebel source in southern Syria said he had been taken by another rebel brigade and held for ransom.
Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) said it is "thrilled" that Campeau has been released.
"Our ambassador to Lebanon has already spoken with him, and we are offering him whatever support he requires," said DFATD spokesperson Jean-Bruno Villeneuve in an email to CBC.
"His ordeal is a reminder to all Canadians of the incredibly dangerous situation in Syria. Canada continues to advise Canadians to avoid all travel to Syria."
Other UN observers also captured
Campeau's capture was followed by the detention of 21 Filipino UNDOF observers by rebels, an event that forced the mission to scale back patrols along a ceasefire line between the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and Syria. They were freed three days later.
UNDOF, which has been monitoring the area since 1974, has about 1,000 peacekeepers and civilian staff from India, Nepal, Ireland, Fiji, Moldova, Morocco and the Philippines in the region.
Peacekeepers from Austria, Croatia and Japan have pulled out because of the growing threat from Syria's 2½-year civil war. The Philippines said in July it would likely keep its 342 soldiers in the ceasefire zone for six more months.