Trump calls on Syria to release journalist, Marine vet Austin Tice 'immediately'

By CHAD GARLAND | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 19, 2020

President Donald Trump called on the Syrian government to release U.S. Marine veteran Austin Tice, buoying the family’s hopes for the return of the Texan, who was abducted while working as a freelance photojournalist near Damascus in 2012.

“If you think about what we’ve done, we’ve gotten rid of the ISIS caliphate in Syria,” Trump said at a press conference in the White House, referring to the Islamic State group that was ousted from the last of the Syrian territory it held a year ago. “It would be very much appreciated if they would let Austin Tice out immediately.”

The former Marine captain, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, was nearly 31 and in his final year at Georgetown Law School when he went to Syria to cover the ongoing civil war there for CBS News, McClatchy and the Washington Post. Tice’s family believes he’s still alive and the government of war-torn Syria would best be able to return him to them.

“We’re working very hard with Syria to get him out,” Trump said. “Syria, please work with us and we would appreciate you letting him out.”

The Tice family was grateful for Trump’s “tireless work” and “unmatched” efforts to bring their son home, the family said in a statement after the president’s remarks. They also praised the work of Robert O’Brien, formerly the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs and now the president’s National Security Adviser.

The family has previously criticized the government’s failed efforts to bring their son home, but said the Trump administration is “very different” and has proven its commitment to bring Americans like Austin Tice home through action.

While the family says no one has ever claimed responsibility for the man’s abduction or told them what’s needed to secure his release, a 43-second video titled “Austin Tice is Alive” emerged five weeks after his disappearance showing the American being held by a group of armed men.

Earlier this year, Tice’s mother told reporters in Washington that a Syrian government official saying in 2014 that he would meet with a U.S. official on the matter, but that meeting never happened. However, Trump administration officials were committed to making it happen, Debra Tice told reporters in a January statement.

On Thursday, the family reiterated the president’s request to the Syrian government.

“It is more important than ever to get Austin safely home,” the family said. “We ask the Syrian government to do all they can to locate and safely return Austin to our family. May it be soon!”

Twitter: @chadgarland