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

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

News

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

2024-05-19 01:07 Last Updated At:01:10

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 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.

A spokesperson for the White House declined to comment Saturday. The FBI's Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell issued a statement that did not offer any update on Kamalmaz but said that no matter how much time has passed, it continues to work “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 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.

FILE - Rep. Al Green, right, listens as Samar Hamwi, sister of Majd Kamalmaz, speaks during the Bring Our Families Home Campaign, a campaign led by family members of Americans wrongfully detained or held hostage abroad, news conference on Tuesday, July 4, 2023 in Houston. 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, his daughter, Maryam Kamalmaz, said Saturday, May 18. (Yi-Chin Lee/Houston Chronicle via AP, file)

FILE - Rep. Al Green, right, listens as Samar Hamwi, sister of Majd Kamalmaz, speaks during the Bring Our Families Home Campaign, a campaign led by family members of Americans wrongfully detained or held hostage abroad, news conference on Tuesday, July 4, 2023 in Houston. 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, his daughter, Maryam Kamalmaz, said Saturday, May 18. (Yi-Chin Lee/Houston Chronicle via AP, file)

FILE - Maryam Kamalmaz poses for a photo in her home in Grand Prairie, Texas, Wednesday, 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 Kamalmazr said Saturday, May 18. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, file)

FILE - Maryam Kamalmaz poses for a photo in her home in Grand Prairie, Texas, Wednesday, 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 Kamalmazr said Saturday, May 18. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, file)

FILE - Maryam Kamalmaz hold a photo of her father with some of his 14 grandchildren in Grand Prairie, Texas, 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 Saturday, May 18. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

FILE - Maryam Kamalmaz hold a photo of her father with some of his 14 grandchildren in Grand Prairie, Texas, 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 Saturday, May 18. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

BANGKOK (AP) — Police found traces of cyanide in the cups of six Vietnamese and American guests at a central Bangkok luxury hotel and one of them is believed to have poisoned the others over a bad investment, Thai authorities said Wednesday.

The bodies were found Tuesday in the Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok, a landmark at a central intersection in the capital busy with malls, government buildings and public transit.

The six had last been seen alive when food was delivered to the room Monday afternoon. The staff saw one woman receive the food, and security footage showed the rest arriving one by one shortly after. There were no other visitors, no one was seen leaving and the door was locked. A maid found them Tuesday afternoon when they failed to check out of the room.

Lt. Gen. Trairong Piwpan, chief of the Thai police force's forensic division, said there were traces of cyanide in the cups and thermoses that police found in the room, but initial results of an autopsy were expected later Wednesday.

Bangkok police chief Lt. Gen. Thiti Sangsawang identified the dead as two Vietnamese Americans and four Vietnamese nationals, and said they were three men and three women. Their ages ranged from 37 to 56, according to Noppasin Punsawat, Bangkok deputy police chief. He said the case appeared to be personal and would not impact the safety of tourists.

A husband and wife among the dead had invested money with two of the others, suggesting that money could be a motive, said Noppasin, citing information obtained from relatives of the victims. The investment was meant to build a hospital in Japan and the group might have been meeting to settle the matter.

Bangkok police chief Lt. Gen. Thiti Sangsawang said Tuesday that four bodies were in the living room and two in the bedroom. He said two of them appeared to try to reach for the door but collapsed before they could.

Noppasin said Wednesday that a seventh person whose name was part of the hotel booking was a sibling of one of the six and left Thailand on July 10. Police believe the seventh person had no involvement in the deaths.

The Vietnamese and United States embassies have been contacted over the deaths, and the American FBI was en route, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said.

He said the case would likely not affect a conference with Russian Energy Minister Sergei Tsivilev at the hotel later Wednesday. “This wasn’t an act of terrorism or a breach in security. Everything is fine," he said.

Trairong said a mass suicide was unlikely because some of the victims had arranged future parts of their trip, such as guides and drivers. He added that the bodies being in different parts of the hotel room suggested they did not knowingly consume poison and wait for their deaths together.

U.S. State Dept. spokesman Matthew Miller in Washington offered condolences to the families of the victims. He said the U.S. is closely monitoring the situation and would communicate with local authorities.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with his Thai counterpart on Tuesday, but Miller said he thought that call happened before the deaths were reported and he didn’t know if it came up in their conversation.

In 2023, Thailand was rocked by reports of a serial killer who poisoned 15 people with cyanide over a span of years. Sararat Rangsiwuthaporn, or “Am Cyanide” as she would later be called, killed at least 14 people who she owed money to and became the country’s first female serial killer. One person survived.

Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin gestures as he is mobbed by the media upon arrival at Grand Hyatt Erawan in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, July 16, 2024. Police said a number of people were found dead Tuesday in the luxury hotel in downtown Bangkok and poisoning is suspected. (AP Photo/Napat Kongsawad)

Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin gestures as he is mobbed by the media upon arrival at Grand Hyatt Erawan in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, July 16, 2024. Police said a number of people were found dead Tuesday in the luxury hotel in downtown Bangkok and poisoning is suspected. (AP Photo/Napat Kongsawad)

Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin arrives at Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, July 16, 2024. Police said a number of people were found dead Tuesday in the luxury hotel in downtown Bangkok and poisoning is suspected. (AP Photo/Napat Kongsawad)

Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin arrives at Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, July 16, 2024. Police said a number of people were found dead Tuesday in the luxury hotel in downtown Bangkok and poisoning is suspected. (AP Photo/Napat Kongsawad)

Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin speaks to the media during a press conference at Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, July 16, 2024. Police said a number of people were found dead Tuesday in the luxury hotel in downtown Bangkok and poisoning is suspected. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin speaks to the media during a press conference at Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, July 16, 2024. Police said a number of people were found dead Tuesday in the luxury hotel in downtown Bangkok and poisoning is suspected. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Police officers talk to a staff member at the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, July 16, 2024. Police said a number of people were found dead Tuesday in the luxury hotel in downtown Bangkok and poisoning is suspected. (AP Photo/Chatkla Samnaingjam)

Police officers talk to a staff member at the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, July 16, 2024. Police said a number of people were found dead Tuesday in the luxury hotel in downtown Bangkok and poisoning is suspected. (AP Photo/Chatkla Samnaingjam)

Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, left, speaks to the media as Royal Thai Police Chief Torsak Sukvimol listens during a press conference at Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, July 16, 2024. Police said a number of people were found dead Tuesday in the luxury hotel in downtown Bangkok and poisoning is suspected. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, left, speaks to the media as Royal Thai Police Chief Torsak Sukvimol listens during a press conference at Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, July 16, 2024. Police said a number of people were found dead Tuesday in the luxury hotel in downtown Bangkok and poisoning is suspected. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Thailand's Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, left, walks past Royal Thai Police Chief Torsak Sukvimol during a press conference at the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, July 16, 2024. Police said a number of people were found dead Tuesday in the luxury hotel in downtown Bangkok and poisoning is suspected. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Thailand's Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, left, walks past Royal Thai Police Chief Torsak Sukvimol during a press conference at the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, July 16, 2024. Police said a number of people were found dead Tuesday in the luxury hotel in downtown Bangkok and poisoning is suspected. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

An ambulance sits outside the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel to Chulalongkorn hospital in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, July 16, 2024. Police say the bodies of six people were found in the luxury hotel in downtown Bangkok. (AP Photo/Chatkla Samnaingjam)

An ambulance sits outside the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel to Chulalongkorn hospital in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, July 16, 2024. Police say the bodies of six people were found in the luxury hotel in downtown Bangkok. (AP Photo/Chatkla Samnaingjam)

A man walks outside the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, July 16, 2024. Police said a number of people were found dead Tuesday in the luxury hotel in downtown Bangkok and poisoning is suspected. (AP Photo/Chatkla Samnaingjam)

A man walks outside the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, July 16, 2024. Police said a number of people were found dead Tuesday in the luxury hotel in downtown Bangkok and poisoning is suspected. (AP Photo/Chatkla Samnaingjam)

Police gather outside the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, July 16, 2024. Police said a number of people were found dead Tuesday in the luxury hotel in downtown Bangkok and poisoning is suspected. (AP Photo/Chatkla Samnaingjam)

Police gather outside the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, July 16, 2024. Police said a number of people were found dead Tuesday in the luxury hotel in downtown Bangkok and poisoning is suspected. (AP Photo/Chatkla Samnaingjam)

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