Mother of Austin Tice, missing in Syria, urges his release
His family has received no claims of responsibility for his disappearance, nor any demands
The mother of Austin Tice, a freelance reporter who went missing in Syria more than 1,000 days ago, made an emotional plea on Tuesday for his release.
Speaking in Beirut, Debra Tice urged anyone with information about the fate of her son to come forward, and asked his captors to consider allowing him to phone her or meet a friend of the family.
"We know Austin is not being held by any part of the (Syrian) opposition, still after all these 1,009 days we do not know where he is or who is holding him," she said.
"Someone... knows something about my son and his whereabouts. I plead with anyone who knows anything at all about Austin to find a way to contact us with that information."
Tice, a freelance reporter who contributed to outlets including the McClatchy agency and The Washington Post, went missing in Syria on August 14, 2012 near Damascus.
His family has received no claims of responsibility for his disappearance, nor any demands.
Shortly after he went missing, a video surfaced purportedly showing him being held by extremists, but the US government could not verify the footage and has said it believes the Syrian government is holding him.
Damascus denies holding Tice, but has said it will do what it can to locate him.
Debra Tice said her family's plight was part of the larger tragedy in the Middle East, including in Syria, where more than 220,000 people have been killed since the conflict began in March 2011.
"My family's anguish is only a drop in that horrific sea of human suffering. Our hearts are joined with those who are experiencing that terrible pain and loss," she said, pausing to hold back tears.
"I want to hold my son in my arms. I want my family to be whole again."
The Tices have set up a website to receive information -- www.austinticefamily.com -- and are working with Reporters Without Borders and Lebanon's Skeyes Centre media group.
The White House said last week for the first time that Washington is in "periodic, direct contact with Syrian government officials, strictly on consular issues, including the case of Austin Tice."
But Tice's mother was critical of Washington, saying she had "grossly overestimated" the willingness of U.S. officials to "step up" and help her family.
"I think assistance would probably be an overstatement, it's something more like coexistence," she said.
No U.S. officials were present at the press conference.
Tice did welcome the U.S. contacts with the Syrian government, but urged that communications be "regular and consistent."
"While we're gratified that we have that change, this is a zero-sum equation, in that the only measure of success is my son in my arms."