US citizen released by Syrian regime following Lebanon mediation

Sam Goodwin was originally detained near Qamishli in May

Major General Abbas Ibrahim, head of Lebanon's General Security agency is seen in Beirut, Lebanon May 23, 2018. Picture taken May 23, 2018. REUTERS/Jamal Saidi

An American citizen detained by the Syrian regime was released on Friday following a diplomatic intervention by Lebanese authorities.

Sam Goodwin, 30, was arrested in the in the city of Qamishli, north east Syria, after accidentally stumbling across a government checkpoint according to reports.

A Lebanese official told Reuters that the country’s security boss Abbas Ibrahim, had personally talked with Syrian officials in an effort to release the man.

In a statement confirming the release, Sam Goodwin’s family said on Friday  “we are grateful to be reunited with our son Sam. Sam is healthy and with his family.” The family also thanked the Lebanese authorities. “We are forever indebted to Lebanese General Abbas Ibrahim and to all others who helped secure the release of our son.”

Maj Gen Ibrahim last month played a crucial role in securing the freedom and Lebanese national and US permanent resident Nizar Zakka, an IT specialist detained in Iran since 2015 on espionage charges. Maj Gen Ibrahim flew to Tehran ensure the release of Mr Zakka.

Mr Goodwin was first reported missing last May near Qamishli in Syria:

Contacted by The National, a State Department official said the US government is "aware of the reports" but "privacy considerations prevent us from commenting further on this case."

Last April, US special envoy for hostage affairs, Robert O'Brien told The National that Syria releasing hostages is key to improving relations with the United States.  "The president has made it very clear that if you want to have better relations with the US, if you want the atmosphere for better relations, then don't hold our hostages, or help us find our hostages if they're missing in your country," he said. The Assad regime is believed to be holding half a dozen US citizens according to the Washington Post.

It's unclear the exact number of US citizens are held by the Syrian regime, but the US has confirmed that journalist Austin Tice, missing since 2012, is one of them.

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