Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Foreigners Held or Missing in Syria

Foreigners Held or Missing in Syria

Monday, 15 April, 2019 - 17:15
Marc and Debra Tice, the parents of US journalist Austin Tice who was kidnapped in Syria in 2012, address a Beirut news conference. (Getty Images)
Asharq Al-Awsat
A handful of foreigners remain missing in war-torn Syria, even after the announced fall of the ISIS group last month following years of abductions and executions.

The International Committee of the Red Cross Monday appealed for news of a New Zealand nurse believed abducted by ISIS in 2013.

Following is what we know about Louisa Akavi and other foreign nationals still believed to be held or missing in war-torn Syria, whether detained by ISIS or other parties:

Louisa Akavi
The New Zealand nurse was snatched along with Syrian drivers Alaa Rajab and Nabil Bakdounes in 2013 while travelling in a Red Cross convoy delivering supplies to Idlib, in northwestern Syria, said an AFP report.

The ICRC has said it believed they were abducted by ISIS, two years into the war and the year before the extremists declared a cross-border "caliphate" in Syria and Iraq.

US-backed forces last month expelled ISIS from their last patch of that proto-state in eastern Syria, but the terrorists maintain a presence in the war-torn country and neighboring Iraq.

New Zealand has said it disagreed with making the abduction public, but confirmed it had dispatched a special forces unit to Syria to search for Akavi.

The New York Times reported the ICRC had reason to believe she was alive, because at least two people described seeing her in December at a clinic in the eastern village of Sousa, one of the last villages held by ISIS.

John Cantlie
The British journalist was detained by ISIS on November 22, 2012.

He was kidnapped along with US reporter James Foley, who became the first of a string of foreign hostages to be slain in gruesome propaganda videos.

Cantlie however appeared in several subsequent videos released by ISIS in which he delivered extremist propaganda to the camera in the style of a news report, said AFP.

His last appearance was during the battle for Mosul in late 2016. He looked gaunt and tired.

In February, media reports quoting Britain's Security Minister Ben Wallace said Cantlie could still be alive. But the Free John Cantlie support group on Twitter said those reports were not substantiated, although they hoped they turned out to be true.

Austin Tice
The 36-year-old American journalist was kidnapped in Syria in August 2012 by unidentified armed men after reporting south of Damascus.

His kidnapping was never claimed by any organization.

US special envoy for hostage affairs, Robert O'Brien, said in November there was every reason to believe he was alive and still detained in Syria.

In December, Tice's father said he believed the Syrian regime was best placed to help bring the journalist home.

Grigory Tsurkanu and Roman Zabolotny
The pair, believed to be Russians, were captured in September or early October 2017 in Deir Ezzour province in eastern Syria.

Moscow never confirmed the identity of the two men, who appeared in an ISIS propaganda video. A Cossack group identified them as two veterans from southern Russia in their late thirties.

Some Russian media reports said they were mercenaries for a shadowy outfit called Wagner which has been sending ex-servicemen to fight alongside Syrian regime forces, said AFP.

A Russian newspaper said they were executed but their deaths were never confirmed.

Sky news team
Mauritanian national Ishak Moctar and Lebanese citizen Samir Kassab went missing on October 15, 2013, along with their Syrian driver, near the northern city of Aleppo.

They were believed held by ISIS but their fate was never confirmed and they are still considered missing. The pair were believed to still be alive in 2016 and held in the then de-facto Syrian ISIS capital of Raqqa.

Paolo Dall'Oglio
The Jesuit priest known to most as Father Paolo was a well-known figure in Syria, where he lived for years in the 6th century Deir Mar Musa monastery that he renovated, north of Damascus.

He was exiled from Syria in 2012 for meeting with members of the opposition to Bashar Assad's regime and kidnapped by ISIS near Raqqa when he returned the following year.

He was reported to have been executed and his body dumped in a crevice soon after, but his death was never confirmed by any party.

Editor Picks