Parents of US reporter missing in Syria urge captors to reach out

BEIRUT: The parents of Austin Tice, a freelance reporter who went missing in Syria nearly five years ago, urged their son’s captors on Thursday for “another chance” to negotiate his release.
Speaking in Beirut, Marc and Debra Tice said they were encouraged by the US administration’s efforts to get their son home, but that it was not enough. “We now plead with those holding Austin to reach out to us again and give us another chance to communicate,” Debra Tice said.
“Whoever, wherever, whatever. We will do it to bring our son home.”
Tice, a freelance reporter who contributed to outlets including AFP, McClatchy and The Washington Post, went missing on August 14, 2012 near Damascus. He is believed to the only American journalist currently held in Syria, which Reporters Without Borders has identified as the most dangerous country for news media in recent years.
His parents say they have not received claims of responsibility for his disappearance nor any demands.
Syria’s government has denied it is holding him. Last month, the New York Times reported that a CIA back channel with Syrian intelligence had rekindled hopes for Tice’s release.
Citing former US officials, the Times said the talks were scrapped after a suspected chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held town in April.
Washington blamed the attack on the Syrian regime and US President Donald Trump ordered a major air strike on the base from which it was allegedly launched.
Tice’s father declined to comment on reports of the back channel, but said he was “very encouraged by the speed and engagement of the new administration.”
While both the US and Syrian governments have assured the Tices they are doing their utmost to bring Austin home, his parents said they “don’t dare rely solely on government efforts.” — AFP