Seven years ago today veteran Marine officer and freelance journalist Austin Tice, 38, was kidnapped in Syria and has been missing ever since.
His parents, Marc and Debra Tice, have been holding news conferences and writing letters to anyone in the government who may be able to locate their son and bring him home, and they — along with the U.S. State Department — are holding out hope that their son may still be alive, the Marine Corps Times reported.
Austin Tice had been in Syria for three months reporting on the war while between semesters at Georgetown Law, and was expected to return home that week, but was mysteriously kidnapped.
Six weeks later, a 43-second video surfaced showing Tice held captive by a group of armed men. The family believes he is still being held captive to this day.
The FBI has offered a $1 million reward for his safe return.
The Syrian government reportedly doesn’t know where Austin Tice is and have denied involvement in his kidnapping and detention. Other organizations have not come forward with taking credit or providing any information or demands that could be met for his release.
The fact that no one has taken credit or asked for ransom is not as uncommon as it may seem, according to one veteran military expert who spoke with Marine Corps Times.
“They could have sent some sort of message that has been kept quiet,” said Steve Bucci, visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation, career Army Special Forces officer and a prior military adviser to former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. “They could be using convoluted pathways or (keeping quiet) is one of the conditions of not killing him.”
“A host of groups could have taken Austin Tice for a variety of reasons,” Bucci said. “Criminal gangs could see an American journalist and a former military officer as a bargaining chip for a hefty ransom.” “Ideologically driven extremists groups might see him as an enemy whom they could make an example of. And even the Syrian government could have detained him for political leverage,” added Bucci.
In some cases, kidnappers hesitate to make a demand because they fear they may be sought by authorities, Bucci said.
“Why that’s not been made public might also be a safety concern for the kidnappers,” Bucci said. “Once a group declares they have him and what they want, they could become a target.”
With no proof of life, the family and the U.S. government are wondering if word will come soon.
Bucci takes the following view on that part of the formula.
“They could be using it to pressure people holding him, move things along, give some concessions, pressure them that way,” Bucci said. “These kind of negotiations are idiosyncratic and don’t follow a defined path. This could be the group’s first hostage or 100th this group has taken. You don’t know the level of intensity.”