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Family Of Austin Tice, Journalist Held In Syria, Press For His Release


American journalist Austin Tice was kidnapped in Syria almost five years ago. There's still little known about who is holding him. Today in Lebanon, his parents reminded the world of his case. NPR's Ruth Sherlock reports.

RUTH SHERLOCK, BYLINE: Austin Tice, a freelance journalist, reported from Syria when the country was in its first year of civil war. His stories were vivid. There were bloody crackdowns by the Syrian military and opponents who took up weapons. Then one day in the autumn of 2012, as he was working in a suburb of Damascus, Tice disappeared. Since that day, Debra and Marc Tice have searched for their son. Now they are approaching the fifth anniversary of his kidnapping, but his dad is convinced that there is still reason to hope.

MARC TICE: We have no doubts as his parents that he's alive. And there's certainly absolutely no evidence to the contrary. Everyone that we work with, everyone that we speak to is working with absolute confidence that he's alive and that he'll come home soon - and we hope very soon.

SHERLOCK: All this time, his parents have only had scraps of information to go on. In the months after his capture, a mysterious video was published online. It showed somebody who looked like Tice being dragged up a hillside by men in jihadi dress. But analysts said it also looked like a video made by people who were pretending to be part of an extremist group. And the State Department said that the Syrian regime was to blame. This was all before ISIS, the group responsible for killing other Western journalists, had even been formed. Tice's mother doesn't believe that it helps to publicly speculate who has her 35-year-old son.

DEBRA TICE: We are less interested in answering that question than we are in having whoever is holding him reach out to us, engage with us so that we can work toward resolving this issue and bringing Austin safely home.

SHERLOCK: Today the State Department said his case has the attention of the highest levels of government. Tice's parents are calling for the American public to keep up the pressure and not forget their boy. Ruth Sherlock, NPR News, Beirut. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ruth Sherlock is an International Correspondent with National Public Radio. She's based in Beirut and reports on Syria and other countries around the Middle East. She was previously the United States Editor for the Daily Telegraph, covering the 2016 US election. Before moving to the US in the spring of 2015, she was the Telegraph's Middle East correspondent.