Two Spanish journalists held hostage in Syria by an al Qaeda-linked militant group for 194 days have been freed and handed over to the Turkish military in good health, one of the men told his employer El Mundo newspaper.

El Mundo Middle East correspondent Javier Espinosa called the newspaper's newsroom late on Saturday to say he and freelance photographer Ricardo Garcia Vilanova had been released and to inform their families. Spain's Foreign Ministry confirmed the men had been freed , but gave no further details.

The two men were captured September 16 by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) rebel group at the checkpoint Tal Abyad in the Raqqa province on the border with Turkey. Their kidnapping had been kept quiet until December 10 at the request of their families because of negotiations with the rebels holding the men.

They had been travelling with members of the rebel Free Syrian Army, who were also taken by ISIL but released after 12 days. The journalists had been attempting to leave Syria after two weeks covering the conflict when they were taken, the newspaper said.