Now to the story of an escape from Syria. An American held hostage by Al Qaeda was able to get free, after months of captivity, but only after being forced to make a terrible choice, CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports.
Matthew Schrier, Escaped captivity in Syria, "He just took my hat, he pulled it over my face, put my head down between my legs and put the barrel of the gun to my temple."
This is how 35 year-old photographer Matthew Schrier says Al Qaeda first grabbed him in Syria. Kidnapped, he tried to travel home to Long Island, New York. A home he left to tell the story of Syrian rebels, through pictures.
He knew he wouldn't be freed, after he was thrown into a dark concrete cell with another American, who was covered in grime.
Matthew Schrier, "He's an American you guys can talk. You guys can talk" And I looked and I realized it was an American and that's when I realized they weren't letting me go. He looked like he'd been there for a hundred years."
Al Qaeda linked militants in the Northern City of Aleppo have taken many Westerners and Arabs hostage. They're called Jabhat Al Nusra and took Matt as he was leaving the Syrian rebels he took photos with.
Matthew Schrier, "The only two things that scare me are time and the torture. It gets to the point where you are like, "you know what, just shoot me."
His captors became brutal, "They sit you down they put a tire over your knees and then they put a stick through it so you can't bend your knees and they flip you over so your feet are in the air and they take a cable that is about this thick about as thick as night stick and they take turns whacking the bottom of your feet. They do it in reps of 15 and you know they have little kids in there doing it that are twelve fourteen years old, you know priming the next generation. By the time it's done you can't even fell your feet they are totally numb."
Tortured for his credit card and bank passwords, captors using nearly all his money to buy iPads and sunglasses on EBay. They didn't want a ransom, just one confession.
Matthew Schrier, "They kept on trying competing to break me, like the low level guys, they all wanted to be the one to make me say that I was a CIA agent."
Eventually he broke, "Say you are a CIA agent or I will hit you very hard. Then I sat there and I was like, they are just going to torture me until I say it.When you are being tortured by a maniac you are going to say what they want you to say sooner or later. So I just chose sooner rather than later because it was a lot less painful."
Locked up together in six different prisons, Matt says he and the other American didn't get along, but had to, to plan an escape. One cell had a window up high with a flimsy wire grill, which they could fit through, but if caught they could be killed. Matt says the other American, who we haven't been able to speak to, was hard to convince.
Matthew Schrier, "He says, You are endangering my life? I was like, I'm trying to save your life."
Eventually he was persuaded, they needed each other to push up to the window and squeeze through.
Matthew Schrier, "Third day we went. I took apart the screen. He hiked me up....I pushed the sand bags aside and I got stuck around my waist. I unbuckled my pants and as soon as I unbuckled my pants I shot right out."
But it wasn't as easy for the other American, who we are not naming for his safety.
Matthew Schrier, "He wasn't fitting and I was like, "take off your shirt get in there...Get in there take off your shirt go with two arms" and I am pulling him and pulling him as hard as I could. I couldn't run away and leave him there You know what I mean? We were both Americans we were in this together. We weren't making any head way, we were making too much noise and the windows were open and the lights were above me, and the sun was coming up."
You must have known then you had to leave him?
Matthew Schrier, "Yeah. Yeah it was on of the hardest things I ever had to do. I didn't just leave him I said to him, you are not fitting."
What's his face look like to you when he is talking?
Matthew Schrier, "He was scared.....He was scared. I was like I got to go. I got to go. He only said once, come back. I was like I can't come back. I was like, I'll get help, I''I'll get help and he was like, All right go."
Is there a part of you that worries about if he might be alive now?
Matthew Schrier, "I think he is alive, I mean of course there is always the possibility that he is not."
What would you say to him?
Matthew Schrier, "I'm sorry that it worked out like this. You know it wasn't what we planned, it wasn't what I planned. It' hard to move on because he's still there. You know, it hasn't ended yet 100 percent and I'm not going to have closure until he's home."