Austin Tice, an American journalist who went missing in Syria, has been seen alive as new video emerged of him surrounded by anonymous captors.
The brief clip shows that Tice survived at least his initial capture, though it offers no clues on his whereabouts or condition, CBS News reported. Austin Tice is a a former Marine and freelance journalist who has worked for CBS and other news organizations. He had been reporting on the escalating violence outside Damascus when he went missing.
On August 13, Tice made his last contact before going missing, an email he sent to colleagues, McClatchy Newspapers reported.
The US State Department says it has an idea of what group is holding Austin Tice, but so far no one has claimed public responsibility for his capture.
Though the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad denies that it is holding Tice, the US government suspects otherwise.
“You know, there’s a lot of reason for the Syrian government to duck responsibility,” said State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said, “But we continue to believe that to the best of our knowledge we think he is in Syrian government custody.”
The State Department even thinks the Assad regime took great lenghts to make it appear as if Austin Tice was being held by Muslim extremists. The camera quality was better than amateur clips posted online, CBSNews noted, and the men in the clip are wearing clothing that appears to be native to Afghanistan.
“It’s almost as if someone went out and watched tapings and video clips of men and fighters in Afghanistan and tried to mimic their behavior, but did so in a very poor manner,” analyst Elizabeth O’Bagy of the Institute for the Study of War told CBS News.
The video of Austin Tice was uploaded on YouTube close to a week ago but got greater exposure when it was posted to the Facebook page of one of Assad’s supporters.
On the video, Austin Tice is shown saying part of an Islamic prayer in broken Arabic and appears to be in distress at the end of the clip as he shouts “Oh Jesus” two times.
Though the State Department has not confirmed that it is Austin Tice, his family released a statement saying: “Knowing Austin is alive and well is comforting to our family. Though it is difficult to see our son in such a setting and situation as that depicted in the video, it is reassuring that he appears to be unharmed.”