Syria denies holding American journalist Austin Tice a decade after his disappearance
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Syria denied accusations on Wednesday that it is holding American journalist Austin Tice, who U.S. authorities say was abducted at a checkpoint near the capital of Damascus 10 years ago.
“The U.S. issued last week misleading and illogical statements by the American president and secretary of state that included baseless accusations against Syria that it had kidnapped or detained American citizens, including former U.S. Marine Austin Tice,” the Syrian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Wednesday that the United States has engaged “directly with Syrian officials” about securing Tice’s release, but the regime has never acknowledged holding him.
“We believe to this very day, that Syria still has the power to release Austin Tice,” Price said at a press conference on Wednesday. “That is why we are calling on the Syrian regime to do just that.”
Tice, a Marine veteran and journalist who traveled to Syria in May 2012 to cover the country’s civil war before his final year at Georgetown Law School, was abducted in August of that year.
A short video surfaced online weeks after he was detained that showed Tice blindfolded and surrounded by armed men, which his family described as an “unusual group of apparent jihadists.”
President Biden marked the 10-year anniversary of Tice’s kidnapping by calling for Syria to release Tice last week.
“We know with certainty that he has been held by the Syrian regime,” Biden said last week. “We have repeatedly asked the government of Syria to work with us so that we can bring Austin home.”
Two U.S. officials traveled to Syria in the final months of the Trump administration to seek information on Tice.
Biden met with Tice’s parents in May, the same month that Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, the chief of Lebanon’s General Security Directorate met with U.S. officials in the nation’s capital to assist with mediation efforts.
Price said Wednesday that Syria’s denial doesn’t change that the U.S. believes the regime can still free Tice.
“That statement does nothing to change our fundamental position, and that is the fact that we call on the Syrian government to ensure that Austin Tice and every US national held hostage in Syria can return home,” Price said Wednesday.