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U.S. formally recognizes death of Majd Kamalmaz in Syria

Syrian-American Majd Kamalmaz was last seen February 2017, when he was stopped at a Syrian government checkpoint in the Damascus suburb of Mezzeh. The U.S. government on Tuesday formally acknowledge that Kamalmaz died while in Syrian custody. Photo courtesy FBI/Release
Syrian-American Majd Kamalmaz was last seen February 2017, when he was stopped at a Syrian government checkpoint in the Damascus suburb of Mezzeh. The U.S. government on Tuesday formally acknowledge that Kamalmaz died while in Syrian custody. Photo courtesy FBI/Release

June 11 (UPI) -- The United States on Tuesday formally recognized the death of Majd Kamalmaz, an American psychologist who disappeared in Syria in 2017.

Kamalmaz was a Syrian-American who took his services to the Middle Eastern country to treat traumatized refugees of the civil war. According to the FBI, he was last seen February 2017, when he was stopped at a Syrian government checkpoint in the Damascus suburb of Mezzeh.

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He had traveled to the city a day prior to visit an elderly relative. He was also looking to establish a clinic in the Syrian capital, the FBI said.

Since his disappearance, his family and the U.S. government have tried to secure his release, but the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad has never acknowledged its detention of Kamalmaz.

"Today, we honor Majd Kamalmaz, an American who died while being held in Syria," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday in a statement.

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In honor of Kamalmaz, the hostage and wrongful detainee flag was flown on several federal buildings, including the White House, on Tuesday.

Kamalmaz's family participated in the flag-raising ceremony at the State Department's Washington, D.C., headquarters, according to the Syrian Emergency Task Force.

"He is and he was the kind of person we need more of in our nation and communities around the world," Acting Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs John Bass said of Kamalmaz during the ceremony, according to the Syrian Emergency Task Force, which was live tweeting the event.

"This is a call to action that reminds us all of the commitment to all Americans who have been taken like Majd held hostage overseas."

The announcement comes after his family announced last month that Kamalmaz had died. The New York Times reported May 18 that his family was informed of his death in Syria's prison system by national security officials.

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"We support Majd's family and the families of all those who are missing or unjustly detained in Syria in their quest for accountability," Blinken said in the statement. "Even as we pay tribute to Majd today, we will keep fighting for all Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad."

The Syrian Emergency Task Force, a Washington-based organization that seeks the end of the civil war and supports those who stand against the Syrian regime, is now demanding the United States open a criminal investigation "into the horrors Majd endured in Assad's dungeons," it said.

The Syrian regime "must definitely answer for what happened to Majd, but this will not happen if the USG does not demonstrate interest and outrage for the killing of an American citizen and open a criminal investigation immediately," it said on X.

Kamalmaz is one of several Americans who have disappeared in Syria over the years.

Journalist Austin Tice disappeared in Syria in August of 2012 while covering the civil conflict.

In marking the grim 10-year anniversary of his disappearance in 2022, President Joe Biden said that the U.S. government knows "with certainty" that Tice was being held by the Syrian regime -- an accusation that al-Bashar's government has rejected.

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