UK security minister says hostage John Cantlie may still be alive

The British photojournalist was last seen in an ISIL propaganda video in 2016, but has not been heard from since.

    John Cantlie escaped abduction in Syria in August 2012  but was recaptured in November of that year. [AP]
    John Cantlie escaped abduction in Syria in August 2012 but was recaptured in November of that year. [AP]

    John Cantlie, a British photojournalist abducted by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) in 2012, is believed to be alive more than six years after his capture, according to the UK security minister.

    Ben Wallace was quoted by British and American media on Tuesday as saying he believes Cantlie is still being held by the armed group, which is now in retreat after controlling a vast territory in Iraq and Syria.

    Wallace, who was last seen in an ISIL propaganda video in Mosul in 2016, did not say whether Cantlie is in Iraq or Syria.

    Cantlie was one of about a dozen Westen hostages held by the group over the past six years. Several were killed, and others released after ransoms were paid.

    Last Western hostage

    The journalist has fronted a series of ISIL propaganda films but had not appeared in a video since 2016, raising fears that he might have been killed in coalition air raids against ISIL.

    On Tuesday, the "Free John Cantlie" campaign said it was "aware of the current news circulating" that he is alive.

    "Whilst this is not substantiated at present, we continue to hope and pray that this turns out to be true," the statement read.

    In January, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) director, Mustafi Bali, was quoted as saying that Cantlie "is still alive and is moving around" the Syrian province of Deir Az Zor.

    Cantlie is believed to be the last Western hostage held by ISIL in Iraq or Syria.

    The ISIL group killed journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and aid worker Peter Kassig, who were all US citizens. British aid workers Alan Henning and David Haines were also killed.

    The masked man responsible for those killings, British national Mohammed Emwazi, was later killed in a US attack on the Syrian city of Raqqa.

    Cantlie was first captured by an armed group in Syria in August 2012 but escaped, only to be captured again after another visit to the country in November 2012.

    Austin Tice, a freelance journalist and veteran US Marine officer, was also taken in Syria in 2012, but it is unknown which group is holding him.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News