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New York Times: CIA set up back channel with Syria to try to free US journalist

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The New York Times reported on Friday on secret contacts between the CIA and the Syrian regime, specifically the Syrian National Security Bureau, in order to free American journalist Austin Tice.

Tice, believed to have been kidnapped by the regime in 2012, is a former Marine captain from Texas who left for Syria before his final year in Georgetown Law School.

The New York Times reported that US President Donald Trump’s administration has sought to find ways to free the journalist, saying his case “frustrated investigators and diplomats since he disappeared while on assignment nearly five years ago”.

According to the newspaper, CIA Director Mike Pompeo spoke on the phone with the head of Syria’s National Security Bureau intelligence service Ali Mamlouk, who stands accused of human rights abuses during the country’s civil war.

Tice was working as a freelance journalist for McClatchy, The Washington Post, CBS and other media when he was abducted from Darayya, Syria.