Syria: The search for Austin Tice
Czech diplomats are working on behalf of the United States to find the whereabouts of an American journalist and former U.S. Marine who went missing in Syria more than three weeks ago.
The State Department asked Czech diplomats, who are the “protecting power” for the United States after officials closed its embassy in February amid growing violence, to verify a report that the Syrian regime has captured Austin Tice, 31, of Houston, Texas.
Tice has been reporting from Syria since May, often with rebel forces who are fighting the Syrian army. It’s feared that the Syrian regime is interrogating Tice for his connections with the rebels and with the U.S. military. Tice served in the Marines from 2005 to 2011.
“We are concerned about his safety and well-being,” said State Department spokeswoman Beth Gosselin.
“We are working through our Czech protecting power in Syria to get information on his welfare and whereabouts, and we appreciate the efforts of the Czech mission on behalf of our citizens,” she said. “We have seen news reports that Mr. Tice in Syrian custody. However, the Syrian government has yet to confirm these reports with our protecting power. We urge the Syrian government to respond to the Czechs’ diplomatic note as soon as possible.”
Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoebi told reporters at a news conference in Damascus on Tuesday that if foreign journalists are being held “they will receive special treatment even though they violated Syrian laws.”
He asked reporters to give him the names of anyone believed to be in Syrian custody but provided no further information.
The Czech Republic’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs told POLITICO it can’t comment on “consular cases that have not been concluded yet.”