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Trump wrote to Assad to help find missing US journalist Austin Tice: Pompeo

Tice was detained at checkpoint near Damascus in August 2012 while covering Syrian conflict
In 2018, US authorities announced a $1m reward for information that would lead to Tice's recovery.
In 2018, US authorities announced $1m reward for information leading to Tice's recovery (AFP/File photo)
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Washington

US President Donald Trump wrote to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in March and proposed "direct dialogue" over the case of Austin Tice, a journalist who went missing in Syria in 2012, according to a statement from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Tice was a freelance photojournalist working for AFP, McClatchy News, The Washington Post, CBS and other news organisations when he disappeared on 14 August 2012 after being detained at a checkpoint near Damascus.

Trump also asked the Syrian government to assist in finding the US citizen.

"Earlier this year, I asked the government of Syria to work with us to find and return Austin. I am again calling on Syria to help us bring him home," Trump said in a statement on Friday, the eighth anniversary of Tice's disappearance.

"There is no higher priority in my Administration than the recovery and return of Americans missing abroad. The Tice family deserves answers.

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"We stand with the Tice family and will not rest until we bring Austin home."

Tice, who was 31-years-old when he went missing, appeared blindfolded in the custody of an unidentified group of armed men in a video a month later.

Since then, there has been no official information on his well being or whether he is alive or dead.

"The US government has repeatedly attempted to engage Syrian officials to seek Austin's release," Pompeo said in a separate statement on Friday.

"No one should doubt the president's commitment to bringing home all US citizens held hostage or wrongfully detained overseas," Pompeo continued. "Nowhere is that determination stronger than in Austin Tice's case."

In 2018, US authorities announced a $1m reward for information leading to his recovery.

Last year, Washington said it believed Tice was still alive, and Tice's mother Debra said earlier this year that she had "credible information" to that effect, without elaborating.

"Austin Tice's release and return home are long, long overdue," Pompeo said. "We will do our utmost to achieve that goal."

At least 137 journalists have been killed while covering the conflict in Syria since 2011, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based watchdog.