American reporter Austin Tice has been missing in Syria since mid-August. The 31-year-old Houston native had been reporting from the war-torn country for a variety of outlets, including McClatchy, The Washington Post and CBS News.
There’s a great deal of concern about Tice’s safety for obvious reasons, and Tice’s friends, family and supporters may be heartened to see a video that apparently shows Tice alive was uploaded to YouTube last week.
However, the video may provide just as many questions as answers.
James Ball of the Washington Post reports that the video only came to widespread attention after it posted on Monday to a Facebook page associated with supporters of the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The video appears to show Tice as a prisoner of Islamic rebels opposed to the Syrian regime, who call out “God is great” in Arabic during the video.
However, Ball spoke to a number of experts who cast doubt on the idea that the video showed Tice had been captured by Islamic rebels.
“It’s like a caricature of a jihadi group,” Joseph Holliday of the DC-based group Institute for the Study of War told Ball. “My gut instinct is that regime security guys dressed up like a bunch of wahoos and dragged him around and released the video to scare the U.S. and others about the danger of al-Qaeda extremists in Syria. It would fit their narrative perfectly.”
Experts who spoke to McClatchy reporter Hannah Alam reached similar conclusions, and added that the video appeared to have been shot shortly after Tice was initially abducted. “There’s so much odd about it,” Will McCants of the Jihadica website told Alam. “There’s no production level, no title page, nothing to indicate it was an al Qaida group. This is just a raw clip of footage.”
Holliday’s assessment would seem to fit with previous intelligence reports gathered by the Czech government for the US that suggested Tice had been detained by government forces (the Czech government, unlike the US is still operating an embassy in Damascus). The Syrian government denies having any knowledge of Tice’s location.
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