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Syrian Government Releases American Held For 4 Years

Syria's government has freed an American who was seized after entering the country in 2012, U.S. officials said Friday.

The Washington Post identified him as Kevin Patrick Dawes, 33, of San Diego. He was released after lengthy negotiations, according to the U.S. officials. There was no immediate word on where Dawes was on Friday.

"We can confirm and welcome the news that a U.S. citizen was released by Syrian authorities," State Department spokesman John Kirby said, without identifying Dawes by name.

It was not clear what he was doing in Syria. The FBI has described Dawes as a freelance photographer who crossed from Turkey into Syria in September 2012. He was active on Twitter in that region before his account went silent in October 2012.

A year earlier, NPR spoke with Dawes in western Libya, where he said he initially served as a medic and then as a fighter with rebels who helped oust dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

"I had to debride some of these blast injuries. And also actually start an IV, [that] was the most complicated thing that I've done by myself. Generally speaking though, I offer, I assist. I'm more of an ambulance guy than anything else," Dawes said in October 2011, two months after Gadhafi was overthrown.

Dawes went on to say that he eventually became a combatant.

"We actually had an entire ambulance crew dragged out of their ambulance and executed. It was at that point we decided we had no choice. It was either this, or perish here," Dawes said.

Dawes said he had never served in the U.S. military, but was trained as a marksman.

Asked why he decided to go to Libya, he said, "See the world, experience new things, get in way over my head, but, you know, ultimately survive. Do well here, I think."

Syria never acknowledged holding Dawes and his case has received relatively little media attention, though GQ magazine had this profile on him in January.

The Americans who are still missing in Syria include freelance journalist Austin Tice, who disappeared in 2012; there has been no word on his fate.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.