In the first glimpse of Austin Tice since a message he tweeted on August 11, the captured Houston journalist appeared in a video clip released yesterday on a website supporting the Syrian government. It shows Tice marching in rugged and arid terrain, blind-folded, among men armed with bazookas and machine guns.
In the 47-second video, Tice recites an Arabic prayer that Muslims often repeat before dying, then stops, and drops his head to the side. Gasping and apparently frightened, he says, "Oh Jesus, Oh Jesus." Then, as Tice rests his head on the arm of a captor, the clip ends.
The New York Times has called into question the authenticity of the video, saying the video appears to be staged. The clip is substantially rougher than most jihadist videos, and was originally posted on YouTube last week, rather than on a specific militant website. It's also unusual that Tice, a non-Muslim, would be forced to recite the "God is Great" chant.
The Houston journalist last spring traveled to Syria to cover its collapse and civil war, but disappeared after he traveled to the Syria's border with Lebanon, according to his editors. Tice, while in Syria, has published in The Washington Post, McClatchy's news service, CBS News, Al Jazeera English and Agence France-Presse.
Since Tice's disappearance, The Washington Post hasn't returned repeated requests for comment.
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The U.S. State Department has said the Syrian government has Tice in custody, but the Syrians haven't confirmed that. The Czech Republic, since the U.S. closed its embassy in Damascus, has acted as an intermediary on the United States' behalf regarding Tice, the State Department has said.
Tice's family, who have declined to discuss their son, said in a statement published by McClatchey's news service: "Knowing Austin is alive and well is comforting to our family. Though it is difficult to see our son in such a setting and situation as that depicted in the video, it is reassuring that he appears to be unharmed"
The statement continued: "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 eldest son, Austin, will soon be safely returned to our family."