Syria's best-known satirical cartoonist was grabbed Thursday by gunmen in Damascus who beat him then threw him out of a car, activists said.
Masked Syrian security force members and masked pro-regime shabiha militiamen grabbed Ali Ferzat at the capital's Ummayad square while he was returning home by car at 4:30 am (0130 GMT), said the Local Coordination Committees, which groups activists on the ground.
"The attackers stole the contents of his briefcase, including his drawings and other personal belongings," the LCC's Omar Idlbi said in a statement.
"He was beaten hard, notably on his hands. Passersby found him on the road to the airport and he was taken to hospital," he said.
Since the start of an anti-regime uprising in March, Ferzat, one of the Arab world's most renowned cartoonists, has published cartoons critical of the brutal crackdown on protesters.
"The Syrian security forces are fully responsible for what happens to Ali Ferzat, especially as he had recently undergone a spinal operation," Idlbi added.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, meanwhile, said that "an armed gang kidnapped and assaulted Ali Ferzat. He has bruises on the face and hands. They (the gunmen) then threw him out of a car on the road to the airport, where he was spotted by a doorman at a building, and was taken to hospital.
"What is strange is that a patrol of the security forces said the armed gang abducted and assaulted the artist, but that they could not be caught," the Observatory said.