Footage has appeared online claiming to show American journalist Austin Tice being held in captivity by pro-Assad forces in Syria. It’s the first reported sighting of the freelance reporter since mid-August when he crossed the Turkish border into the war-torn Middle-East country. Here’s what you need to know.
1. The Clip is from September 26th
Despite only coming to light over the past 24 hours, the clip was uploaded over a week ago. Unlike most other militant videos that have appeared from Syria, this was put straight on to YouTube rather than an Islamist militant website. The reason for it’s discovery was it’s posting on a pro-Assad Facebook page late last night.
2. 25 journalists have already been killed during the conflict in Syria
There are estimates that 25 reporters have already been killed during the conflict in Syria. The Committee to Protect Journalists also estimates that 21 of these reporters were specifically targeted.
3. In the Video, the Captors are Wearing Afghan-style Tunics
Another issue in the video that has raised questions is the style of clothing being worn by the captors. Afghan-style Tunics as opposed to the more hardened militant wear that has been seen in previous videos. Not to mention the fact that they are freshly pressed and spotless, an indicator that they haven’t seen much action.
4. The US State Department Believe he is Being Held by the Syrian Government
The US have issued official statements that despite what the Syrians are saying, they believe that Tice is being held by government forces. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Monday that U.S. officials had viewed the video but could not verify it. “We continue to believe that, to the best of our knowledge . . . he is in Syrian government custody,” she said.
5. The Militants Pictured Make No Claims About their Identity or Motives
To add to the list of curiosities in the video, the militants make no claim about their specific identity as a group, about their motives, or if they have any demands regards Tice.
6. Tice was with Another Journalist when he went Missing
The Turkish government have expressed concern over the whereabouts of Cüneyt Ünal, a cameraman. It is believed that Tice and Unal were together at some point whilst embedded with opposition forces on the outskirts of Damascus. Clearly there is no sign of Unal in the video of Tice.
7. Tice is a Former US Marine
Before becoming a journalist, Tice was a US Marine veteran as well as a law school graduate from Georgetown.
8. His mother has had a Twitter Campaign for his Release since August 24th
Prior to his disappearance, Tice had been in regular contact with his mother via Twitter, her final message to him is heartbreaking.
9. The FBI have Opened an Investigation
Although they have made no further comment, The Washington Post is reporting that the FBI have opened an investigation into Tice’s disappearance. This could be an indicator that they believe the video to be legitimate.
10. Tice’s Parents Believe it is their son in the Video
In an official statement, Tice’s family expressed their feelings on the video. “Knowing Austin is alive and well is comforting to our family. Though it is difficult to see our eldest son in such a setting and situation as that depicted in the video, it is reassuring that he appears to be unharmed,” Tice’s parents, Marc and Debra, said in a statement. “It is evident that the current events in Syria are challenging and difficult for everyone involved. Our wish is that peace and stability can once again return to the people of Syria and that our treasured son Austin will soon be safely returned to our family.”