Biden says Austin Tice held by Syria, demands his release

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President Biden on Wednesday demanded that the Syrian government release freelance journalist and Washington Post contributor Austin Tice, saying that the United States knows that he is being held by their government 10 years after he was abducted.

“We know with certainty that he has been held by the Syrian regime,” Biden said in a statement. “We have repeatedly asked the government of Syria to work with us so that we can bring Austin home.”

This week marks a decade since Tice, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps and was also a journalist who had been working and covering the conflict in Syria, was abducted in Damascus on Aug. 14, 2012, days after his 31st birthday. He is one of the longest-held American hostages.

Transcript: American Hostage with Debra & Marc Tice, Parents of Austin Tice

Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad has not acknowledged that his government detained Tice, and other top Syrian officials have denied having custody or any information about him. But Biden made clear in his statement that the United States believes the Syrian government has Tice, and the ability to release him.

“I am calling on Syria to end this and help us bring him home,” Biden said. “There is no higher priority in my Administration than the recovery and return of Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad. We must name them, keep them in our hearts and our minds, and make their recovery and return a priority.”

Biden’s strongly worded statement came a month after a controversial trip to Saudi Arabia in which he met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is accused of being behind the killing of Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

In his statement, Biden alluded to a meeting he held in early May with Tice’s parents, Marc and Debra, saying he pledged to them to try to secure their son’s release.

“The Tice family deserves answers, and more importantly, they deserve to be swiftly reunited with Austin,” Biden said. “We stand with Austin’s many loved ones, and we will not rest until we bring Austin home. Ten years is far, far too long. So is every additional day.”

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