It's been nearly a decade since Debra and Marc Tice have seen their son, Austin. On Monday, US President Joe Biden hosted the couple at the White House and assured them he is committed to bringing home the 40-year-old journalist thought to be held captive in Syria.
"Today’s meeting built on multiple meetings and conversations between the Tice family and the President’s national security team, which will remain in regular contact with the Tices and other families of Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
"We appreciate the bravery and candor of families enduring these harrowing experiences, and we remain committed to supporting them and, most importantly, reuniting them with their loved ones."
Tice, a freelance journalist and former US Marine who lived in Houston, whose work had been published by the Washington Post among other outlets, disappeared while reporting in August 2012 at a checkpoint in a contested area west of Damascus. Syria has not acknowledged holding him. He has not been heard from since one video was released in 2012, in which he was blindfolded and held by armed men.
In November 2020, the final days of the Trump administration, Lebanese Security Chief Abbas Ibrahim visited Damascus after a trip to Washington as part of efforts to Tice. Ibrahim told Lebanese broadcaster al Jadid he went on a two-day visit to Damascus and was in regular contact with Tice's mother to tell her that he would continue to work on her son's "file." Former president Donald Trump had adopted the case while in office and in October 2020 it was confirmed that a White House official traveled to Damascus earlier in the year for secret meetings with the Syrian government seeking the release of Tice and another US citizen. The trip was the first time such a high-level US official had met in Syria with the isolated government of Syrian President Bashar Assad in more than a decade.
Syria broke into civil war nearly a decade ago after Assad in 2011 began a brutal crackdown on protesters calling for an end to his family’s rule.
Reuters contributed to this report.