A British journalist held hostage by ISIS for three years has appeared in the latest issue of the extremist group’s propaganda magazine after a six-month absence that left his supporters wondering if he’s still alive.
John Cantlie was kidnapped in Syria on Nov. 22, 2012, along with American freelance journalist James Foley — the first of a group of British and U.S. hostages who were executed in ISIS propaganda videos last year.
But Cantlie’s life was spared and he was put forth as a reporter of sorts in videos and in columns in the propaganda magazine Dabiq.
The 12th issue of Dabiq appeared online Wednesday, on the heels of the attacks on Paris. The issue is titled, “Just Fear.” It’s in this issue that ISIS released a photo that purportedly shows a pop can bomb used to blow up the Russian Metrojet passenger plane last month.
Cantlie’s purported articles and reports have often criticized Western efforts to degrade or eradicate ISIS as futile and trumpet the strength and growth of ISIS and its self-declared Caliphate.
This latest article, titled “Paradigm Shift Part II” follows on an article published in March, in which Cantlie purportedly “examined the depiction of the Islamic State in Western media and politics progressing from a mere ‘organization’ to a real, functioning country.”
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And that’s what has changed the game in the international fight against ISIS, the article argues.
“True, it is a functioning state that uses terror as a tool. But if it’s just an ‘organization and the soldiers who fight for it just terrorists, this gives the public a hook on which to hang their hat,” Cantlie purportedly writes.
“Fighting mere terrorists is one thing, fighting a country, even if that country takes pride in its tactics, is quite another.”
It’s not known when the photo of 45-year-old Cantlie, clad in prison attire was taken. Likewise, it’s not known whether he actually wrote the article himself, under duress or otherwise, or whether the article is just being attributed to him.
It’s also not known why Cantlie was kept alive — if he is in fact still alive — or why ISIS chose him to be featured so prominently in ISIS propaganda.
But Rita Katz, the director of SITE Intelligence Group, a terrorist and jihadi monitoring group, told Newsweek Cantlie has become a popular figure for ISIS and its followers.
“This made Cantlie a very valuable but very complex asset for ISIS—much more so than other prisoners whom IS fighters and supporters would cheer to see killed,” she said. “That stated, there would be a lot for ISIS to lose in killing Cantlie. However, ISIS is extremely unpredictable and is not adverse to making barbaric and horrifying decisions.”
She also explained ISIS would likely have tried to capitalize on his death “as a way to condemn the anti-ISIS coalition.”
One year ago, Cantlie was just one of two British and American hostages who remained captive in Syria, after ISIS beheaded Foley, U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff, British aid workers David Cawthorne Haines and Alan Henning and U.S. aid worker Abdul-Rahman (Peter) Kassig.
It’s believed those five men were murdered by the so-called ISIS executioner who became known as “Jihadi John.”
Cantlie never appeared in the Jihadi John video, nor did Kayla Mueller — an American aid worker whose death was reported in February although the circumstances surrounding her death have remained unclear.
Cantlie, Mueller and the others were all held for ransom but the U.K. and U.S. governments had strict policies against paying for the release of hostages.
His father, Paul Cantlie, made a death-bed plea for his son’s release in October 2014. But Cantlie, in a message he allegedly wrote in the February issue of Dabiq, told his family to “let him go” and “get on with their lives.”