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Friday, August 24, 2012 - Page updated at 06:30 p.m.

U.S. journalist in Syria hasn't been heard from in more than a week

By Ernesto Londoño
The Washington Post

The family of Austin Tice, an American freelance journalist who has been reporting from Syria for The Washington Post and other news organizations, said Thursday that it has not heard from him for more than a week and is concerned for his welfare.

Tice, 31, a Georgetown University law student who grew up in Houston and who previously served as an infantry officer in the Marine Corps, reported from Syria this summer. His reporting on the civil war has been published by The Post, McClatchy Newspapers and other outlets.

After entering Syria across the Turkish border in May, Tice spent time with rebel fighters in the north. He traveled to Damascus in late July, becoming one of the few Western journalists reporting from the capital. He intended to leave Syria in mid-August. Relatives and editors who have worked with Tice have not heard from him since then.

"We understand Austin's passion to report on the struggle in Syria and are proud of the work he is doing there," said Tice's parents, Marc and Debra, who live in Houston.

Tice contributed more than a dozen articles to McClatchy, which owns 30 U.S. newspapers. The Post published three of his articles. He also contributed reports for CBS News, Al-Jazeera English, the Agence France-Presse news agency and the McClatchy-Tribune Photo Service.

Tice's reporting earned him a 2,000-strong following on Twitter, where fans of his work noted his disappearance when he stopped tweeting after Aug. 11, when he had recounted spending his 31st birthday listening to Taylor Swift music with rebel fighters from the Free Syrian Army.

His subsequent silence didn't raise immediate alarm because he had planned to leave that week, on a journey to the border that often takes days because of the fighting en route. The Damascus suburb where he was last known to have been has faced heavy bombardment in recent days, making communications difficult.

The Washington Post said it was worried about Tice's welfare and credited him for "important, on-the-ground reporting" in Syria.

"We're focused intensively on trying to ascertain his whereabouts and ensure his safe return," executive editor Marcus Brauchli said.

McClatchy Vice President for News Anders Gyllenhaal said the company is "deeply concerned" about Tice's safety and has sought assistance from the State Department to find him.

The U.S. Embassy in Damascus suspended operations in February, and U.S. interests in Syria are represented by the Czech Embassy.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said officials "are working through our Czech protecting power in Syria to get more information on Tice's welfare and whereabouts, and we greatly appreciate the efforts of the Czech mission on behalf our citizens."

Tice was among the journalists who entered Syria this year to report on the intense fighting between rebel squads and troops loyal to President Bashar Assad.

Covering Syria has become increasingly dangerous as the fighting has intensified in recent months.

Ten professional journalists have been killed in Syria since the revolt began, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

At least 10 Syrian citizen journalists have also been killed, according to CPJ's tally.

Material from McClatchy Newspapers is included in this report.

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