Former Marine Capt. Austin Tice is one of the only foreign journalists reporting on the Syrian civil war from inside the country. Friends, family and colleagues say they have not heard from him since Aug. 11. (LinkedIn)
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Friends and family of a former Marine and freelance journalist have not heard from him in more than two weeks.
Austin Tice, 31, a former Marine captain who left the Corps early this year, is one of the very few foreign journalists reporting inside Syria about the civil war between the Syrian regime and rebel forces.
Tice filed reports for various media outlets, including McClatchy Newspapers, the Washington Post and Al Jazeera English, the international television news channel. He also posted frequently to his Twitter account and Facebook page to stay in touch with his followers.
In one of his last posts on Twitter, Tice wrote, "Listening to the shells usher in my birthday. Afghanistan, California, DC, Egypt, Turkey, Syria. What an insane year."
The next day, Aug. 11, he tweeted about listening to Taylor Swift while spending time with members of the Free Syrian Army on his birthday. That message was his last.
According to McClatchy, the lack of communication with Tice did not immediately raise red flags because he planned to travel to the border within the week, and delays due to rebel fighting were expected.
Anders Gyllenhaal, McClatchy vice president of news and Washington editor, has described Tice's recent work from the battlefield as "powerful and revealing."
In a written statement to Marine Corps Times, Mark Seibel, chief of correspondents for McClatchy, said, "Austin is an excellent writer and has the benefit, with his military background, of actually understanding what he's seeing."
Tice arrived in Syria in May and had been reporting from Damascus since late July. Like other foreign journalists, he was inside the border without a visa.
According to Tice's LinkedIn profile, he left the Corps in January after serving for seven years, including a combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. During his military career he served as a joint terminal attack controller and as an infantry platoon and company commander.
He studied international politics at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service from 1999 to 2002 before entering the Marine Corps and is currently studying law at Georgetown, according to his profile.
David Yaman, a former ground intelligence officer, served with Tice in 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines. They deployed together with the 26 Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard the amphibious assault ship Bataan from January to June 2007.
"Tice was young and energetic." Yaman said. "He reported to 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines, full of ideas and hoping to make a difference."
Though Yaman and Tice had lost touch following their 2007 deployment, Yaman recalled encountering Tice again by coincidence during a mission to exploit an underground hideout and recover an insurgent weapons cache in al Anbar, Iraq, in spring 2008.
"I was leading the unit that had discovered the underground hideout, and Tice led the unit escorting Marine engineers to destroy, demolish and recover the hideout and weapons cache. Austin understood what needed to be done and took charge of his Marines," Yaman told Marine Corps Times.
On Monday, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters the agency had no new information on Tice's whereabouts.
"We are working through [the embassy of the Czech Republic], reaching out to the regime to see if it has any information," Nuland told reporters.
In a July posting on Facebook, Tice urged his followers to stop cautioning him to be safe in the midst of Syrian violence and explained his desire to report inside Syria.
"Every person in this country fighting for their freedom wakes up every day and goes to sleep every night with the knowledge that death could visit them at any moment," he wrote, "I don't have a death wish — I have a life wish. So I'm living, in a place, at a time and with a people where life means more than anywhere I've ever been — because every single day people here lay down their own for the sake of others. Coming here to Syria is the greatest thing I've ever done, and it's the greatest feeling of my life."