Kevin Patrick Dawes has been released by the Syrian government after the American freelance photographer was captured after entering the country about four years ago. U.S. officials said the 33-year-old from San Diego was turned over to authorities from Russia, which has been backing the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad in the civil war that now is in its sixth year.
The U.S. officials said Kevin Patrick Dawes was abducted in 2012, according to the Washington Post. State Department spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. continues to work through Czech officials in Syria to get information on the welfare and whereabouts of Austin Tice and other U.S. citizens missing and detained in Syria.
While Kevin Patrick Dawes has been released from Syria, the photographer said in 2011 that he traveled to Libya initially as a medical aid worker but then ended up fighting with anti-Qaddafi forces. He said that he went to Libya to “see the world, experience new things, get in way over my head, but, you know, ultimately survive.”
The Czech embassy represents U.S. diplomatic interests in Syria. Kirby declined to give further details on the release.
Tice, of Houston, Texas, disappeared in August 2012 while covering Syria’s civil war. A video released a month later showed the journalist blindfolded and held by armed men, saying “Oh, Jesus.” He had not been heard from since then.
In June, Tice’s father, Marc, said that the new hostage policy announced by President Obama was “an excellent step forward.” “If there was … any opportunity to bring Austin home, we would do everything we could to make it happen,” he said.
Details on how Kevin Patrick Dawes was released are minimum, but FBI officials said that he was taken by the Syrian government after crossing the border from Turkey. Dawes recently was permitted to call his family and receive packages.
Dawes’ Twitter account from the time was filled with re-tweets of articles about rebels fighting the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad and potential regime crimes. The last activity on the account was posted on Oct. 2, 2012 — a retweet of a message claiming Assad’s forces had abducted civilians. Kevin Patrick Dawes ended up in one of Syria’s political prisons.
Dawes’ disappearance drew little media attention, but the his release is believed to be a positive sign the Syrian government is moving toward freeing Tice, a former U.S. Marine. The administration of Syrian President Bashar Assad has never acknowledged taking Tice, but U.S. officials say they believe he is detained by the regime or an affiliated group.
Kevin Patrick Dawes was released following months of negotiations, but it’s unclear if American officials spoke directly with the Syrian regime or through an intermediary. Syria has been embroiled in a brutal civil war since 2011 that has killed hundreds of thousands of people while creating nearly 5 million refugees.