Wednesday 13 December 2017

Hostage tells family, you won't see me alive again

British hostage John Cantlie, in an Isil video grab, whom has told his family that it is unlikely that they will ever see him alive again
British hostage John Cantlie, in an Isil video grab, whom has told his family that it is unlikely that they will ever see him alive again

Colin Freeman

THE British journalist held hostage by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) militants in Syria has told his family to abandon hopes of seeing him alive again.

In comments made in an article for Isil's online propaganda magazine, John Cantlie said it was time for his loved ones to "let him go" and "get on with their lives".

His message came on the same day that Isil fighters took control of large parts of the western Iraqi town of al-Baghdadi.

The advance threatens an air base where US Marines are training Iraqi troops.

The town of Al-Baghdadi, is about 50 miles northwest of Ramadi in Anbar province, and has been besieged for months by the radical Sunni Islamist militants who captured vast swathes of northern and western Iraq last year.

Militants attacked al-Baghdadi from two directions earlier in the day and then advanced on the town, intelligence sources and officials in the Jazeera and Badiya operations commands said.

The officials said another group of insurgents then attacked the heavily-guarded Ain al-Asad air base five km southwest of the town, but were unable to break into it.

About 320 US Marines are known to be training members of the Iraqi 7th Division at the base, which has been struck by mortar fire on at least one previous occasion since December.

Last night Pentagon spokeswoman Navy Commander Elissa Smith confirmed there was "heavy fighting" in al-Baghdadi.

She said there had been no direct attack on the air base, but added: "There were reports of ineffective indirect fire in the vicinity of the base."

An Iraqi defence ministry spokesman declined to comment on the situation in Anbar.

District manager Naji Arak confirmed that Islamic State insurgents had entered al-Baghdadia and attacked some government buildings.

He initially estimated the militants had taken 90pc of the town but later said he could not confirm the extent of the group's control as intermittent clashes continued into the early morning.

Most of the surrounding towns in Anbar fell under Islamic State control after the group's rapid advance across the Syrian border last summer.

Elsewhere in Iraq, five civilians were killed when bombs went off in two towns south of Baghdad, police and medical sources said. Such attacks are not uncommon in and around the capital.

The message appeared to be urging Mr Cantlie's family to give up on their publicity campaign and behind-the-scenes efforts to get him freed.

John Cantlie (44) was kidnapped while reporting in Syria in November 2012. Last October, his elderly father Paul, who was in poor health, made a televised appeal to Isil from his hospital bed to plead for his son's release. Mr Cantlie, who was 81 at the time, died later that month.

He is now believed to be the only one of the various Britons kidnapped by Isil who is still alive.

Mr Cantlie, who has appeared in a series of propaganda videos for Isil, made his latest comments in the magazine Dabiq, a slickly-produced Isil mouthpiece.

He thanked friends and relatives for trying to get him released, and criticised the British government for refusing to pay a ransom for him, a tactic that some other European governments have used to free Isil hostages.

It is not possible to say whether Mr Cantlie definitely authored the article, or to what extent it was written under duress.

His talk of closure with his family followed comments in his most recent broadcast, released last week, that it would be "the last film in this series". That may raise fears of an imminent threat to his life.

(© Daily telegraph, London)

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