The White House on Wednesday marked the 10th anniversary of the detention and disappearance of American freelance journalist Austin Tice in Syria, and called for his release by the government of President Bashar Al Assad.
“On the 10th anniversary of his abduction, I am calling on Syria to end this and help us bring him home,” said US President Joe Biden.
"There is no higher priority in my administration than the recovery and return of Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad.
“He is a son, he is a brother, and he is an investigative journalist who put the truth above himself and travelled to Syria to show the world the real cost of war,” the president said. “We know with certainty that he has been held by the Syrian regime.”
In August 2012, Tice was in Syria reporting as a freelance journalist when he was detained at a government checkpoint in a suburb of the capital Damascus.
Five weeks later, his captors released a 43-second video, titled Austin Tice is Alive, which showed a group of unidentified armed men holding the journalist and US Marine Corps veteran. This is the only information the Tice family have received from his captors, according to their website.
"[Tice] risked everything to show the world the horrific crimes of the regime and its Iranian and Russian allies," Syrian activist Omar Alshogre, who is a survivor of torture by government forces and now attends Tice's alma matter, Georgetown University, told The National.
"As a fellow Georgetown student who has witnessed the crimes of the Syrian regime inside its detention centres, I can tell you that Austin and journalists like him exemplify the best of humanity. I pray that he makes it back home."
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that every passing day adds to Tice and his family’s "unfathomable ordeal".
"We will do everything possible to see to it that Austin comes home to his loved ones who miss him dearly and to the country that awaits him eagerly,” Mr Blinken said.
“Each and every day we will strive to bring Austin home, where he belongs.”
The Tice family met Mr Biden in the Oval Office in May. In a statement, they said “President Biden made significant, encouraging commitments for this effort. We are anxious to see the President’s uplifting words put into action, confirming the assurance that Austin’s safe return is a priority for this administration.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is offering is a reward of up to $1 million for information leading to Tice's location, recovery, and return.