The United States knows “with certainty” that the Syrian government has held Austin Tice, a reporter and former U.S. Marine missing in Syria since 2012, and is asking for its help bringing him home, President Joe Biden said in a statement on Wednesday.
Tice disappeared in Syria in August 2012 — a decade ago this week — while covering the war as a freelance journalist for McClatchy, The Washington Post and other publications. U.S. officials believe he was detained at a Syrian government checkpoint southwest of Damascus on Aug. 14 of that year. A video emerged six weeks after his disappearance purporting to show him in captivity.
“We know with certainty that he has been held by the Syrian regime. We have repeatedly asked the government of Syria to work with us so that we can bring Austin home. On the tenth anniversary of his abduction, I am calling on Syria to end this and help us bring him home,” Biden said.
Marking a decade since Tice was taken, Biden said he has “no higher priority” than the return of Americans wrongfully detained abroad.
“We must name them, keep them in our hearts and our minds, and make their recovery and return a priority,” Biden said. “That is a pledge I have made to the American people and to Austin’s parents, and it is one that I am determined to uphold.”
In a statement, FBI Director Christopher Wray said the bureau is still looking for information on Tice. The FBI issued a $1 million reward for information that could lead to the location and return of Tice in 2018.
“It is time to renew our public call for information that could lead to his whereabouts,” Wray said. “The FBI will continue to work with our government partners to bring Austin home and seek answers for his family.”
Biden administration officials have said they operate on the “sincere belief” that Tice is alive. The Syrian government has denied any knowledge of his whereabouts or condition.
Also issuing a statement, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States continues to “demand” that Syrian officials “acknowledge the detention of Austin and every other U.S. national held in Syria, a responsibility under international law and an important step in securing their release.”
“We will continue to pursue all available avenues to bring Austin home and work tirelessly until we succeed in doing so,” Blinken said. “Every passing day adds to Austin’s and his family’s unfathomable ordeal.”
The U.S. special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, Roger Carstens, “will continue to engage with the Syrian government” in coordination with the White House, State Department, and law enforcement agencies, Blinken said.
In early May, Biden held a meeting with Marc and Debra Tice at the White House to discuss their son’s case. The Tice family pleaded with Biden to directly engage with the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad on Tice. Biden told the family he would direct his team to meet with the Syrians as soon as possible.
In his statement, Biden said the Tice family “deserves answers, and more importantly, they deserve to be swiftly reunited with Austin.”
“We stand with Austin’s many loved ones, and we will not rest until we bring Austin home. Ten years is far, far too long,” Biden said. “So is every additional day.”
The Tice family was not immediately available for comment.
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