NATIONAL NEWS

US intelligence suggests American who vanished in Syria in 2017 has died, daughter says she was told

May 18, 2024, 7:00 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. officials have developed specific and highly credible intelligence suggesting that an American citizen who disappeared seven years ago while traveling in Syria has died, the man’s daughter said Saturday.

Maryam Kamalmaz said in an interview with The Associated Press that during a meeting in Washington this month with eight senior American officials she was presented with detailed intelligence about the presumed death of her father, Majd, a psychotherapist from Texas.

The officials told her that on a scale of one to 10, their confidence level about her father’s death was a “high nine.” She said she asked whether other detained Americans had ever been successfully recovered in the face of such credible information, and was told no.

“What more do I need? That was a lot of high-level officials that we needed to confirm to us that he’s really gone. There was no way to beat around the bush,” Maryam Kamalmaz said.

She said officials told her they believe the death occurred years ago, early in her father’s captivity. In 2020, she said, officials told the family that they had reason to believe that he has died of heart failure in 2017, but the family held out hope and U.S. officials continued their pursuit.

But, she said, “Not until this meeting did they really confirm to us how credible the information is and the different levels of (verification) it had to go through.”

She did not describe the intelligence she learned.

Spokespeople for the White House and the FBI, which investigates abductions in foreign countries, did not immediately return messages seeking comment Saturday.

Majd Kamalmaz disappeared in February 2017 at the age of 59 while traveling in Syria to visit an elderly family member. The FBI has said he was stopped at a Syrian government checkpoint in a suburb of Damascus and had not been heard from since.

Kamalmaz is one of multiple Americans who have disappeared in Syria, including the journalist Austin Tice, who went missing in 2012 at a checkpoint in a contested area west of Damascus. Syria has publicly denied holding Americans in captivity.

In 2020, in the final months of the Trump administration, senior officials visited Damascus for a high-level meeting aimed at negotiating release of the Americans. But the meeting proved unfruitful, with the Syrians not providing any proof-of-life information and making demands that U.S. officials deemed unreasonable. U.S. officials have said they are continuing to try to bring home Tice.

The New York Times first reported on the presumed death of Majd Kamalmaz.

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US intelligence suggests American who vanished in Syria in 2017 has died, daughter says she was told