Trump envoy urges Russia help free journalist Austin Tice held in Syria

Austin Tice. (Supplied)
Updated 14 November 2018

Trump envoy urges Russia help free journalist Austin Tice held in Syria

  • Tice was 31 years old when he was abducted in August 2012 while reporting in Damascus on the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad

WASHINGTON: A Trump administration envoy on Tuesday urged Syria’s ally Russia to push for the release of Austin Tice, an American freelance journalist kidnapped in Syria six years ago.
Robert O’Brien, US President Donald Trump’s special envoy for hostage affairs, said Trump would take measures necessary to facilitate Tice’s freedom if it would help. He did not elaborate on the measures.
“We are continuing to call on the Russians to exert whatever influence they have in Syria to bring Austin home,” he said. The Syrian government says it is unaware of Tice’s whereabouts.
O’Brien came to Trump’s defense when asked why the president has made no public pronouncements on Tice but had spoken out in the cases of Americans held in Turkey, North Korea and Iran. He said Trump and his top aides are closely tracking the case.
O’Brien spoke at a news conference called to announce a National Press Club drive for private donations to match a $1 million FBI reward for information leading to Tice’s freedom.
Tice was 31 years old when he was abducted in August 2012 while reporting in Damascus on the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad.
He has not been heard from publicly since a video posted online weeks after he disappeared showed him in the custody of armed men. O’Brien said the United States believes Tice is alive but did not elaborate on the journalist’s condition.
Washington has declined to identify who it believes is holding Tice but has sought the help of Russia, Assad’s main foreign backer in the civil war, and other countries.
Tice’s father, Marc Tice, said that he and his wife will travel to Beirut later this year on at least their seventh trip to apply for visas to enter Syria to seek their son’s release.


India celebrates Republic Day with military parade

Updated 21 min 23 sec ago

India celebrates Republic Day with military parade

  • Schoolchildren, folk dancers, and police and military battalions marched through New Delhi’s parade route

NEW DELHI: Thousands of Indians converged on a ceremonial boulevard in the capital amid tight security to celebrate the Republic Day on Sunday, which marks the 1950 anniversary of the country’s democratic constitution.
During the celebrations, schoolchildren, folk dancers, and police and military battalions marched through New Delhi’s parade route, followed by a military hardware display.
Beyond the show of military power, the parade also included ornate floats highlighting India’s cultural diversity as men, women and children in colorful dresses performed traditional dances, drawing applause from the spectators.
The 90-minute event, broadcast live, was watched by millions of Indians on their television sets across the country.
Brazilian President Jair Messias Bolsonaro was the chief guest for this year’s celebrations.
He was accorded the ceremonial Guard of Honor by President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Rashtrapati Bhawan, the sprawling presidential palace.
Bolsonaro joined the two Indian leaders as the military parade marched through a central avenue near the Presidential Palace.
At the parade, Bolsonaro watched keenly as mechanized columns of Indian tanks, rocket launchers, locally made nuclear-capable missile systems and other hardware rolled down the parade route and air force jets sped by overhead.
Apart from attending the Republic Day celebrations, Bolsonaro’s visit was also aimed at strengthening trade and investment ties across a range of fields between the two countries.
On Saturday, Modi and Bolsonaro reached an agreement to promote investment in each other’s country.
Before the parade, Modi paid homage to fallen soldiers at the newly built National War Memorial in New Delhi as the national capital was put under tight security cover.
Smaller parades were also held in the state capitals.
Police said five grenades were lobbed in the eastern Assam state by separatist militants who have routinely boycotted the Republic Day celebrations. No one was injured, police said.
Sunday’s blasts also come at a time when Assam has been witnessing continuous protests against the new citizenship law that have spread to many Indian states.
The law approved in December provides a fast-track to naturalization for persecuted religious minorities from some neighboring Islamic countries, but excludes Muslims.
Nationwide protests have brought tens of thousands of people from different faiths and backgrounds together, in part because the law is seen by critics as part of a larger threat to the secular fabric of Indian society.