By Mark Seibel, McClatchy Washington Bureau
A British photographer whose kidnapping in Syria has been subject to a media blackout for nearly two years has appeared in an Islamic State video that was posted on the Internet Thursday.
John Cantlie, who people close to the case have long known was with American James Foley in northern Syria when both were seized by radical Islamist extremists, confirmed that he had been kidnapped in November 2012. Foley disappeared on Thanksgiving Day that year.
It was the second time Cantlie had been kidnapped in Syria. The first time had come four months earlier, when he and a Dutch photographer were seized by jihadists in a case that for the first time revealed the presence of radical foreign fighters inside Syria.
Cantlie and the Dutch photographer, Jeroen Oerlemans, who were held for a week before they were freed, said their kidnappers included many native English-speakers, whom Oerlemans described as having accents from Birmingham, a city in England.
British authorities even filed criminal charges against one man, a British physician, whom Cantlie identified as having been among his abductors. But the case was dismissed last year, with British prosecutors explaining only that Cantlie was “unavailable” to testify.
That was because Cantlie had been seized again, this time with Foley.
In the 3-minute and 21-second video, Cantlie, who is the only figure visible, appears seated at a desk, dressed in an orange jumpsuit similar to those worn by Foley, American journalist Steven Sotloff, and British aid worker David Haines when they were beheaded by an English-speaking executioner.
Cantlie says nothing about the Foley kidnapping or why he had gone back into Syria so soon after having been released from his previous abduction; fellow journalists have speculated he was trying to track down his original kidnappers.
He also does not say explicitly that he has been threatened with death. He acknowledges, however, that he is a prisoner, felt abandoned by his government, and that he had nothing to lose by making the video.
He also says there will be others — he called them “the next few programs” — in which he said he would “show you the truth as the Western media tries to drag you back into another war with the Islamic State.”
“I’m going to show you the truth behind the systems and motivations of the Islamic State and how the Western media, the very organization I used to work for, can twist and manipulate that truth to the public back home,” he says. “There are two sides to every story.”
He promised also to explain how the British and U.S. governments had refused to negotiate with the Islamic State for the release of their citizens, while other European governments paid ransoms and saw their captives go free.
“I think you may be surprised by what you learn,” he concludes, without saying when the next video might be posted.
Cantlie’s whereabouts have been a mystery since Foley’s execution video was posted Aug. 19, with many wondering why he was not among the British hostages threatened with death. The Islamic State has threatened to execute a fourth hostage, British aid worker Alan Henning.
AFP Photo/Jm Lopez
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