Watch CBS News

American who disappeared in Syria in 2017 presumed dead, daughter says

Family of American held in Syria turn to Trump
Family of Majd Kamalmaz, American detained in Syria, appeal to Trump for help 02:53

An American citizen who disappeared seven years ago while traveling in Syria is presumed dead, the man's daughter said Saturday.

Maryam Kamalmaz told the Associated Press that eight senior U.S. officials revealed earlier this month that they have specific and highly credible intelligence about the presumed death of her father, Majd, a psychotherapist from Texas.

During the meeting, held in Washington, 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.

American Hostage-Syria
Maryam Kamalmaz hold a photo of her father with some of his 14 grandchildren in Grand Prairie, Texas, on Jan. 17, 2024. U.S. officials have developed specific and highly credible intelligence suggesting that Majd Kamalmaz, an American citizen who disappeared seven years ago while traveling in Syria has died, Maryam Kamalmaz said on May 18. Julio Cortez / AP

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 had 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.

The FBI Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell told CBS News on Saturday that it "no matter how much time has passed," it "works on behalf of the victims and their families to recover all U.S. hostages and support the families whose loved ones are held captive or missing." 

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 immigrated to the U.S. when he was six years old and became a dual citizen.

"We're American in every way possible. Don't let this fool you. I mean, my father always taught us that this is your country, we're not going anywhere. We were all born and raised here," Maryam Kamalmaz told CBS News in 2019.

A spokesperson for the White House declined to comment Saturday and spokespeople for the FBI, which investigates abductions in foreign countries, did not immediately return the Associate Press' email seeking comment.

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 the 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.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.