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Syrians still not sharing information on fate of journalist Austin Tice, Pompeo says

By Michael Wilner, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON — The Syrian government has chosen not to share any information it has about Austin Tice, an American journalist captured there in 2012, despite repeated overtures by the Trump administration, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday.

Pompeo at a press briefing confirmed that the administration remained in touch with Syrian officials regarding Tice's case.

"Our ask is that the Syrians release Mr. Tice, tell us what they know. They have chosen not to do that so far," Pompeo said. "We're going to continue to work for the return not only of Austin but of every American that's held."

Kash Patel, senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council, visited Damascus this summer to meet with the head of Syria's intelligence agency to discuss Tice's release, a senior administration official told McClatchy earlier this week. The meeting was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

"We're not going to change American policy to do that. As the president said, clearly, we don't pay for the return of hostages," Pompeo told reporters. "We work to make the case that they need to get these people returned. And that is our expectation of every country, not only Syria, but all the Americans who are held in Iran – every place we find them, we work diligently, and we've had enormous success."

President Donald Trump has also acknowledged that he has asked the Syrian government of Bashar Assad "to work with us to find and return Austin."

 

"I am again calling on Syria to help us bring him home," Trump said in August, marking the eighth anniversary of his disappearance. "There is no higher priority in my administration than the recovery and return of Americans missing abroad. The Tice family deserves answers. We stand with the Tice family and will not rest until we bring Austin home."

Tice was a student at Georgetown Law School in 2012 when he traveled to Syria as a freelance journalist for McClatchy and other news organizations.

In August of that year, Tice was south of Damascus, writing his final stories and planning to leave for Lebanon. He got into a car in Darayya, a Damascus suburb, and was detained at a checkpoint. Five weeks later, a video was released showing him held by unidentified armed men.

No one has claimed responsibility, and no other information has come from his captors.

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