The parents of an American journalist who has been missing in Syria for the past five years said on Thursday that they believe he is still alive—and that the US and Syrian governments have assured them they're doing all they can to secure his safe release. The pair also expressed the family's readiness to deal with any government or group that will help them win the freedom of their son, the AP reports. Austin Tice, of Houston, 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 hasn't been heard from since. Debra and Marc Tice said at a news conference in the Lebanese capital of Beirut—ahead of the fifth anniversary of their son's disappearance—that they have "every reason to believe that Austin is alive" and called on those holding their son to reach out to them.
"We honestly do not know who is holding Austin," said Debra Tice. "For us the speculation on that question is less important than for them to reach out and engage with us so that we can ... bring our son safely home." Last month, the New York Times reported that the CIA has set up a secret back channel with Syria to try to free Austin Tice. Commenting on the report, Debra Tice said the family "can't verify it, but of course we certainly hope that it is true. We support every effort to ask about Austin." 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. Speaking about the Trump administration, Debra Tice said the family is "so gratified with how quickly they came up to speed with Austin's situation and fully engaged, wanting to move forward, eager to see him safely home."