The FBI has announced a $1,000,000 reward for information leading directly to the safe return of Robert Levinson. A retired FBI agent, Levinson disappeared in Iran in 2007.
Friday will mark the five-year anniversary of Levinson's disappearance.
"To the members of the Levinson family, we in the FBI share in your heartache. But we also share in your sense of hope -- hope for Bob's safety, his health, and his homecoming," FBI director Robert Mueller said during a press conference in Washington on Tuesday.
"We in the FBI are working every day to bring your husband, father and grandfather back home to you," Mueller continued. "Bob was a special agent of the FBI for 22 years and that means something to each and every one of us in the Bureau. It means something to the citizens we serve."
Levinson's wife of 37 years, Christine Levinson, said "there are no words to describe the nightmare that my family and I have been living every day. I never imagined that we would still be waiting for Bob to come home five years later."
Robert Levinson, who will turn 64 on March 10, is a former FBI Special Agent who retired from the FBI in 1998 after 22 years of service. In March 2007, Levinson traveled to Kish Island, Iran, as a private investigator to reportedly look into a cigarette smuggling investigation. He disappeared on March 9 of that year.
In 2010, a video purportedly showing Levinson in captivity was sent to his family by his alleged captors.
In March 2011, the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the U.S. government had received information indicating Levinson was being held captive by a group in southwest Asia. However, the captors remain unidentified.
Levinson has seven children and two grandchildren.
Earlier this week the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI announced it will give the two youngest Levinson children $5,000 each to help with college costs.
"Bob is part of the FBI family," said Brad Benson, the society's president. "We are trying to help carry out what he would be doing for his children if he were home. We also want to commend and support the fact that Bob's family has pulled together so heroically."
In addition to the latest announcement regarding the reward, the FBI is launching a publicity campaign in southwest Asia. The bureau will use billboards, radio messages and flyers to spread word of the reward and to solicit information. A telephone tip line is also being provided to the public in that region for those who want to confidentially provide information.
"The FBI continues to follow every lead into his abduction and captivity," James McJunkin, assistant director of the FBI Washington Field Office, said in a statement. "We are committed to bringing Bob home safely to his family. We hope this reward will encourage anyone with information, no matter how insignificant they may think it is, to come forward. It may be the clue that we need to locate Bob."
Levinson's wife said her family is grateful to the FBI for offering the reward and hopes it will lead to his safe return.
"Our family believes the only way of resolving this issue successfully is with the FBI's help," said Christine Levinson. "It has been an extremely difficult time for my family. We all thought Bob would be home by now. But five years have passed, and we still don't know why he's being held, who has him or where he is."
"We're never going to give up," Levinson added. "Our goal is to get Bob home. We miss him every single day."
Anyone with information about the Levinson case is asked to contact their nearest FBI office or American Embassy. Tips can also be submitted to the FBI tip website.