WASHINGTON – Federal authorities for the first time are offering a reward for information leading to an American journalist who has been missing in Syria for more than five years. The reward is up to $1 million.
Austin Tice, of Houston, Texas, disappeared in August 2012 while covering Syria’s civil war. A video released a month later showed him blindfolded and held by armed men saying “Oh, Jesus.” He has not been heard from since.
Tice is a former Marine who has reported for The Washington Post, McClatchy Newspapers, CBS and other outlets. He disappeared shortly after his 31st birthday.
The circumstances surrounding his disappearance are still a mystery. It’s not clear what entity is holding him and no ransom demand has ever been made. But a newly released FBI poster urges people to report any information that could lead to his location, recovery or return.
The FBI did not say why it was offering the reward money now, only that it was unrelated to any specific event or new piece of information. An FBI spokeswoman would not say how officials settled on the $1 million sum, only that reward payment amounts are based on a number of factors including “the severity of the danger or injury” to a U.S. citizen and the risk to the source providing the information.
Tice’s parents have said they believe he is still alive and the U.S. and Syrian governments have assured them they are working to secure his safe release.
Of the reward offer, Tice’s mother Debra Tice told The Associated Press Thursday, “We’re thrilled. We’re happy for anything that might move the needle and bring our son safely home.”
She said she and her husband didn’t prompt the offering, noting it was an internal decision by the FBI. They are “just really, really happy to see that level of involvement and commitment,” she said. “It really warms our hearts because it’s just another indication of their commitment, involvement.”
Stengle reported from Dallas.