While it’s not confirmed that Austin Tice is the hostage in the video, his family is certainly taking it as a sign he’s alive. This material may be disturbing for some listeners. The 47 second video shows what looks like a group of masked and armed Islamist militants bringing Tice up a rocky hill. Tice is filmed kneeling surrounded by his captors and is reciting a prayer in choppy Arabic.
Roughly translated he’s talking about God, Allah, and his mercy. It’s unclear whether he’s delivering the Shahada, the Muslim prayer recited before dying, as the video cuts off abruptly. Before Tice left for Syria he spoke to KUHF about his security concerns with the country’s government.
“There’s a very real security concern. You know, people are concerned about their faces showing up in photographs because the Syrian government is notorious for exerting pressure on people by going after their families in really quite violent and atrocious ways.”
It had been thought that Tice was being held by the Syrian government. However, Fred Burton with Stratfor Global Intelligence in Austin says nothing can be confirmed as on the ground intelligence is distinctly lacking in Syria right now.
“Without human intelligence inside the organization or very close to the organization that can specifically tell you where the hostage is being held and who is holding the hostage, it becomes very problematic for the counter-terrorism community.”
Often times counter-terrorism groups work with host governments. In the case of Syria, Burton says, that’s not an option. The U.S. State Department is now relying on other embassies after the U.S. Embassy attack in Damascus. But in his experience, any information in a hostage situation is something that can be used to find them.
“The intelligence community greatly likes these kinds of videos. It’s a tremendous amount of technical coverage on that video to just break it down into time of day, to geography, to enhance some of the audio to see if you can hear noises such as airplanes flying over, horns honking, dogs barking.”
Burton stressed that as soon as Tice went missing a file was opened and won’t be closed until he’s found.
“Trust me when I say, the case is being very aggressively and actively pursued as best the intelligence community can possibly do, depending on the intelligence capabilities they have in that specific region.”
As soon as Tice’s captors can be identified, Burton says intelligence is well on the way to figuring out why and where he’s being held. Something which might offer a little relief to his parents after watching the disturbing video posted this week.