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Lebanese general says he visited Syria over missing US reporter Austin Tice

Abbas Ibrahim, said to be facing sanctions for ties to Hezbollah terror group, makes comments after Washington trip where he is thought to have discussed case with officials

Marc and Debra Tice, the parents of Austin Tice, who is missing in Syria for nearly six years, speak during a press conference, at the Press Club, in Beirut, Lebanon, Dec. 4, 2018 (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
Marc and Debra Tice, the parents of Austin Tice, who is missing in Syria for nearly six years, speak during a press conference, at the Press Club, in Beirut, Lebanon, Dec. 4, 2018 (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

BEIRUT — A top Lebanese security official said Saturday that after returning from Washington recently he visited Syria for two days where he spoke with officials about American journalist Austin Tice, who has been missing in the war-torn country since 2012.

Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim did not give many details in an interview with the local Al-Jadeed television channel. His comments came two weeks after his return from Washington, where is believed to have discussed Tice’s case with US officials.

Tice, of Houston, Texas, disappeared at a checkpoint in the contested western Damascus suburb of Daraya on August 14, 2012. A video released a month later showed him blindfolded and held by armed men. 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, and disappeared shortly after his 31st birthday.

Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, chief of Lebanese General Security Directorate, arrives at the presidential palace for a welcoming ceremony for Nizar Zakka, in Baabda, east of Beirut, June 11, 2019 (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

“After my visit to Washington, I went to Syria for two days and discussions over this matter are continuing and will continue,” Ibrahim said, referring to Tice’s disappearance.

Ibrahim’s comments came as the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar reported Saturday that the US Congress could impose sanctions on him, under a new bill being considered. Ibrahim in recent years has helped to facilitate the release of a US citizen held in Syria, and a Lebanese-American who was held in Iran.

The US has imposed sanctions in recent months on Lebanese politicians including allies of the militant Hezbollah group. Washington has listed Hezbollah as a terrorist organization since 1997 and sees the group as a proxy for its archenemy Iran in the region.

Ibrahim said that US sanctions wouldn’t stop him from working on Tice’s case.

“I have promised Austin Tice’s mother whom I met in Washington and speak with her by telephone on a daily basis that neither sanctions nor anything else will affect work over the case of her son,” he added.

Kristian Lee Baxter (C), a Canadian formerly held captive by the Syrian government, pats the shoulder of the Lebanese Head of General Security Major-General Abbas Ibrahim (L), during a press conference with Canada’s ambassador to Lebanon Emanuelle Lamoureux (R), following Baxter’s release after an eight-month captivity, in the Lebanese capital Beirut on August 9, 2019. (Photo by MOHAMMAD AL-SAHILI / AFP)

In late October, Trump administration officials said that Kash Patel, a deputy assistant to US President Donald Trump, made an unusual, secret visit to Syria for high-level talks aimed at securing the release of Tice and US citizen Majd Kamalmaz, a 62-year-old clinical psychologist from Virginia, who disappeared in 2017 and is believed to be held in a Syrian government prison.

The Syrian government has not publicly acknowledged knowing anything about his whereabouts.

US envoy to Syria James Jeffrey, who resigned from his post earlier this month, said that Tice is believed to be alive and held hostage in Syria. He didn’t say why officials believe this or who might be holding him.

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