John Cantlie Believed To Still Be Alive After Being Held By ISIS For Six Years

John CantlieGetty Images

United Kingdom Security Minister Ben Wallace announced on Tuesday, February 5, that ISIS hostage John Cantlie is believed to still be alive, CNN is reporting.

Cantlie was covering the conflict in Syria in 2012 when he was captured by ISIS, along with American journalist James Foley. Foley was later beheaded in an ISIS video released in 2014. The British government thinks Cantlie may still living. Wallace says that Cantlie is probably the more public and prominent British hostage.

Cantlie has been seen as a prisoner in various propaganda videos released by ISIS. The group has also had the journalist do videos where he was “reporting.” His last video was in December of 2016, where he said he was on the “frontline” of the fight for Mosul.

“We’re in the center of Mosul a little way east, and behind me it looks like a scene out of a Steven Spielberg film, except this is for real,” he said to the camera.

The journalist appeared to have grown a beard, and had lost a significant amount of weight in the video. His family — as well as many supporters — have made videos pleading with ISIS to set him free. Wallace told reporters that the British government refuses to pay ISIS ransom, and encouraged other countries to also refuse.

Cantlie is a photographer who began his career as a motorcycle journalist. He has covered many dangerous conflicts around the world — and has traveled to Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, and Syria among other places. Cantlie was actually first kidnapped in Syria in July of 2012, along with Dutch photojournalist Jeroen Oerlemans. The two made a failed escape attempt before being rescued by members of the rebel Free Syrian Army a week after their imprisonment. Cantlie returned to Syria in November of 2012, where he was kidnapped again. He is thought to remain in ISIS custody to this day.

“When you are held captive, you’ve got a blindfold on, you’ve got a guy sticking a gun in your head, it is very real. It was inferred that we would meet our God, were we ready to meet God, that we had sown the seeds of our own destruction,” Cantlie had said of his first capture. “The imagination can run riot. These are not nice thoughts… and I absolutely had them.”

One of Cantlie’s last photographs was of Syrian regime jets dropping bombs over Maraat al-Numan. He is thought to have been captured — shortly after the photos were taken — by jihadists, who eventually transferred him to ISIS.

There was no sign of him for two years, until ISIS released a video featuring Cantlie as a prisoner.