John Cantlie: is UK journalist still alive?
Freelancer photographer captured in 2012 has appeared in a number of IS propaganda videos
A British journalist held prisoner by Islamic State for more than six years ago is still alive and being held by the jihadist group, the Home Office has said.
John Cantlie was captured by IS in 2012 along with US photographer James Foley who was subsequently beheaded. He appeared in a number of propaganda videos for the group but has not be seen since his last message was released in 2016.
His appearances criticising western foreign policy and military action provoked much debate about whether he had been coerced by the group, have been brain-washed or was playing along to survive.
“In early videos he appeared in an orange jumpsuit like other Western hostages” says the Daily Telegraph; “in later videos he was dressed in civilian clothes and acted like a journalist reporting on conditions inside the so-called caliphate”.
“He was later featured in a series of mock news reports from different Isis strongholds, and his byline appeared on articles in the group’s English-language magazine,” reports The Independent.
In July 2017 Iraqi media reported he had been killed in an airstrike during the battle to recapture Mosul, only for a French IS fighter to later tell the French magazine Paris Match that he had seen Cantlie “seven or eight months ago” in Raqqa, the group’s stronghold in Syria.
Now UK Security Minister Ben Wallace has told reporters Cantlie is still thought to be alive. “Previous statements by UK officials had hinted that the Briton was probably dead” reports the BBC, and Wallace has not explained why he believes the journalist is still a captive.
BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner said the news was a surprise to Cantlie's next of kin.
Wallace reiterated the UK’s stance that it does not pay ransom, however, he “would not have made his remarks without a firm piece of evidence”, says The Guardian.
“The UK could be relying either on intercept evidence, or some fragment provided from the growing number of former IS fighters returning to Europe,” says the paper.
Even if he is alive, his exact whereabouts remain a mystery. All major IS cities and strongholds have fallen to coalition forces and the group is mainly confined to desert areas along the Iraqi-Syrian border.
However, “Cantlie’s continued captivity is the latest evidence that a core of Islamic State fighters remains intact” say the New York Times, despite claims by Donald Trump and plans to withdraw US troops from Syria.
According to The Independent, Cantlie is one of at least three foreign journalists unaccounted for in Syria, including American Austin Tice and South African Shiraz Mohamed.