Syria denies kidnapping or holding US journalist missing for 10 years

Austin Tice went missing in Damascus in 2012 while reporting on the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

AMMAN (REUTERS) - Syria on Wednesday (Aug 17) denied kidnapping or holding a US journalist who disappeared a decade ago a week after President Joe Biden demanded that Damascus let him go home.

Austin Tice, a former U.S. Marine, was kidnapped in August 2012 aged 31 while reporting freelance in Damascus on the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

His family believes he is alive and still being held in Syria.

The identity of Mr Tice's captors is not known, and there has been no claim of responsibility for his abduction.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry described Mr Tice as a US serviceman and denied the government was holding him or any other US citizen.

"These are baseless allegations," the statement said.

Issuing a statement on the 10th anniversary of Mr Tice's captivity, Mr Biden said last Wednesday his administration had "repeatedly asked the government of Syria to work with us so that we can bring Austin home".

Mr Biden said Washington knew "with certainty" that Mr Tice had at times been held by Syria's government.

Washington suspended its diplomatic presence in Syria in 2012 at the onset the country's civil war.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Mr Biden's special envoy for hostage affairs, Roger Carstens, would "continue to engage with the Syrian government" in coordination with the White House.

The families of hostages and detainees have begun to collectively raise their voices to urge Mr Biden to prioritise the issue and take steps such as arranging further prisoner swaps with foreign governments.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.