by Doug Stanglin (USA Today)
The United States believes that American freelance journalist Austin Tice is in Syrian government custody, but cannot verify that a newly released video on YouTube is actually him, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland says.
"We've seen the video. We are not in a position to verify, (a) whether it's him, (b) whether it represents an actual scene that happened or something that may have been staged," Nuland said Monday. "There's a lot of reason for the Syrian government to duck responsibility, but we continue to believe that, to the best of our knowledge, we think he is in Syrian government custody."
Tice, a 31-year-old former Marine who has worked for such media outlets as The Washington Post and McClatchy Newspapers, has been missing in Syria since Aug. 13.
The brief video clip, titled "Austin Tice still alive," purportedly shows the American blindfolded and disoriented. It was posted last week, but only became widely known this week, according to McClatchy reporter Hannah Allam.
Allam quotes Tice's parents, Marc and Debra, of Houston, as confirming in a statement that it is Tice in the video.
"Though it is difficult to see our eldest son in such a setting and situation as that depicted in the video, it is reassuring that he appears to be unharmed," they say.
Allam writes, however, that some terrorism experts expressed skepticism about the video, saying its production quality, style and method of release do not match those typically released by extremist groups like al-Qaeda or its affiliates.