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Parents of US journalist missing in Syria hopeful about fate

Marc and Debra Tice, the parents of Austin Tice, who is missing in Syria for nearly six years, speak during a press conference, at the Press Club, in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. They say they are hopeful the Trump administration will work on releasing their son the way they did with Americans who had been held for long time in North Korea. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

BEIRUT (AP) — The parents of American journalist Austin Tice, who went missing in Syria in 2012, said Tuesday they are hopeful the Trump administration will work on releasing their son, in the same way it did with Americans held in North Korea.

Marc and Debra Tice told reporters in Beirut that they have met U.S. officials including President Donald Trump and “they have each made a commitment to us that they’re determined to bring Austin home safely.”

Marc Tice said he was aware of 17 Americans that the administration had brought back from captivity or detention.

Austin Tice, of Houston, Texas, disappeared at a checkpoint in a contested area west of Damascus on Aug. 14, 2012, shortly after his 31st birthday. A video released a month later showed him blindfolded and held by armed men, saying “Oh, Jesus.” He has not been heard from since.

His parents said they recently applied for visas to go to the Syrian capital, Damascus, to appeal for his release, but the visas have not been granted yet.

“We’re incredibly encouraged, and we’ve spent many hours, many days meeting all the senior officials in the United States government from the president down over the course of a number of months,” Marc Tice said.

Debra Tice said they were recently contacted by a number of credible individuals “who have shared information about Austin,” but she declined to elaborate.

Their comments came two weeks after U.S. envoy to Syria James Jeffrey said Tice is believed to be alive and held hostage in Syria. He didn’t say why officials believe this or who might be holding him.

In April, federal authorities for the first time offered a reward of up to $1 million for information leading to Tice, a former Marine who has reported for The Washington Post, McClatchy Newspapers, CBS and other outlets.

It’s not clear what entity is holding him, and no ransom demand has ever been made. An FBI poster released this year urges people to report any information that could lead to his location, recovery or return. The White House envoy for hostage affairs, Robert O’Brien, said last month that the administration is working to bring him home.

“What the president communicated to us was an absolute commitment to work very hard to bring Austin safely home,” Marc Tice said.

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