Missing US citizen freed by Syrian regime

Kevin Patrick Dawes is a 33-year-old freelance photographer from San Diego

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A US citizen who was held in Syria has been freed by Bashar al-Assad”s regime, the State Department said Friday, raising hopes for a 33-year-old Californian missing in the country since 2012.

“We can confirm and welcome the news that a US citizen was released by Syrian authorities,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said.

A Washington Post report identified the released man as Kevin Patrick Dawes from San Diego, an individual listed by the FBI as missing in Syria.

The Post and the FBI website described Dawes as a freelance photographer but a detailed profile in GQ Magazine portrays him as an adventurer and “have-a-go guerrilla.”

Prior to disappearing in Syria, Dawes had taken up arms with a ragtag militia in Libya battling forces loyal to then-leader Moamer Kadhafi, according to an interview he gave to NPR radio in 2011.

The FBI missing persons report says Dawes travelled to Syria in September 2012 from Turkey and has not made contact since October of that year.

According to the Post report, the Syrian government recently permitted Dawes to call his family and to receive a care package.

The United States has no diplomatic relations with Syria, believing that Assad lost legitimacy after his crackdown on opposition protests triggered a civil war.

But Washington is in close touch with Assad”s key ally Russia and has been working with other partners to try to ensure the safety of missing Americans.

There have been reports that Washington has been leaning on the Russians to pressure Assad into giving up undeclared US hostages.

“We continue to work through our Czech protecting power in Syria to get information on the welfare and whereabouts of Austin Tice and other US citizens missing and detained in Syria,” Kirby said.

“We appreciate the efforts of the Czech mission on behalf of US persons.”

Tice is an American freelance journalist who worked for the Washington Post, McClatchy and other US outlets until he went missing in Syria in August 2012.

According to the Post report, officials seeking 31-year-old Tice”s freedom see Dawes” release as a positive sign. Tice”s family had no immediate comment.

Press rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders said it was “delighted to learn that US citizen Kevin Dawes was released and remains hopeful that US journalist Austin Tice will be free soon.”

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