Officials in the Obama administration have “high confidence” that the only American journalist still being held captive in Syria is alive, according to Texas Senator John Cornyn.
Austin Tice, a freelance photojournalist from Houston, went missing in August 2012 while reporting near the Syrian capital of Damascus.
Speaking on the Senate floor Friday, Cornyn said he recently spoke with Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs James C. O'Brien, who delivered “positive, yet cautious news.”
“Mr. O'Brien and his team informed me that they have high confidence that Austin is alive in Syria along with other Americans who are being held captive,” Cornyn said. “While this is certainly positive news, I can’t help but think of his parents and what they have had to go through these last four years.”
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Previously, he only definitive indication that Tice was alive came a month after he went missing, when a video posted to YouTube showed him being prodded up a hill by armed men and praying in Arabic and English.
The origin or content of the video was never verified, and The Associated Press has previously reported the clip “lacks the customary form of jihadist videos.” Tice has not been heard from or seen since the video was published.
“It was clearly Austin, in distress,” his father told the Houston Chronicle. “There’s a lot of speculation about what it does and doesn’t show. You can drive yourself crazy.”
Cornyn said Tice’s family have been “keeping a flame alive, hoping that Austin has survived the circumstances of his capture.”
“They’re not just counting the months, they’re not just counting the days, but they’re literally counting the minutes and the seconds since he’s been gone and then counting those milestones that we typically observe in our families, birthdays and holidays that they will never recover,” Cornyn said.
Tice was a veteran of the Marine Corps and was a law student at Georgetown before his capture. According to Reporters Without Borders, he is the only American journalist still being held captive in Syria.
Cornyn said the news he had received regarding Tice’s status should be a reminder that “we cannot give up until we bring Austin Tice home.”
“I renew once again my call for his immediate release by his captors, and I strongly urge the current and future Administration to continue to utilize all possible means to secure his safe return.”