BEIRUT — The parents of an American journalist who has been missing in Syria since mid-August say they have no idea who is holding him. The mother and father of Austin Tice pleaded for information about their son as they spoke to reporters in Lebanon's capital on Monday.
The 31-year old former U.S. Marine disappeared in August while reporting on Syria's civil war for various news outlets.
A law school student and fledgling journalist, Tice travelled to Syria in May - crossing without a visa across the Turkish border. He submitted several news articles from Syria before he disappeared. His parents last heard from him on August 13.
A video clip posted online in late September showed Tice held captive by gunmen. But there is no evidence as to who those gunmen might be.
“We know that we’re not the only family that’s suffering," said his father Marc Tice. "Austin’s silence has given us some understanding that so many families in this part of the world are suffering. We ask whoever is holding Austin to treat him well, to keep him safe and to return him to us as soon as possible.”
Marc and Debra Tice, the parents of seven children, are from the U.S. city of Houston, Texas. They travelled to Beirut hoping to gather more information on the whereabouts of Austin.
“My precious Austin, I love you dearly, I hold you tenderly in my heart and I pray for you constantly," said Debra Tice, addressing her son directly. "Be assured we will do all we can to bring you safely home.”
The U.S. State Department believes Austin is being held by the Syrian government. The video posted could not confirm that, and experts are questioning its authenticity.
During the press conference, the Tices said they had contacted the Syrian government, which said it knew nothing of Austin’s whereabouts. They also said they will do "whatever it takes" to get him back.
Tice is one of several journalists who have gone missing in Syria.
Two journalists working for U.S. government-funded Alhurra TV, correspondent Bashar Fahmi and cameraman Cuneyt Unal, have been unaccounted for since August, when they were reporting in and around Aleppo.
The Broadcasting Board of Governors, the parent organization of Alhurra and the Voice of America, has urged the Syrian government to ensure their safety.