John Cantlie

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John Cantlie
John Henry Cantlie

Disappeared22 November 2012 (aged 41–42) [1]
Statusbelieved to still be held by Islamic State
OccupationWar photographer and correspondent
Parent(s)Paul and Carol Cantlie

John Henry Cantlie (born 1970) is a British[2][3] war photographer and correspondent. He was kidnapped in Syria with James Foley in November 2012.[4] He had previously been kidnapped in Syria alongside Dutch photographer Jeroen Oerlemans in July 2012, but was rescued a week later.[5] In July 2017, reports surfaced in Iraqi media claiming Cantlie had been killed in an airstrike sometime during the battle of Mosul.[6][7] In October 2017, a French ISIS fighter told French magazine Paris Match that he had seen Cantlie "seven or eight months ago" in Raqqa.[8] In January 2019, an official of the Syrian Democratic Forces stated Cantlie may still be alive inside Deir ez-Zor Governorate, Syria.[9][10][11]

Family history[edit]

John Henry Cantlie is the great grandson of Sir James Cantlie,[12] a doctor who co-founded the Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese in 1887 (later the University of Hong Kong). In 1896, he was instrumental in the protection of the Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat-sen who might otherwise have been executed by the Qing dynasty secret service.[13] His grandfather, Colonel Kenneth Cantlie,[12] designed the China Railways KF locomotive, at 260 tons the largest locomotive of post-war China that remained in service until 1972.[14]

Cantlie's father Paul died on 16 October 2014, having released a video pleading for his son's release on his deathbed.[15][16]


Cantlie started his journalistic career in the early 1990s as a tester for Sega video-games.[17][18][19]

First abduction[edit]

Cantlie was reportedly kidnapped by fighters while crossing illegally into Syria from Turkey on 19 July 2012, near Bab al-Hawa.[20] Along with Dutch photographer Jeroen Oerlemans, Cantlie was shot whilst trying to escape their captors. In an interview with The Sun newspaper on 26 August 2012, Cantlie said it was "every Englishman's duty to try and escape if captured."[21][22] In an account in The Sunday Times on 5 August 2012, Cantlie described his experience.[23][24]

Oerlemans was shot in the left leg and Cantlie in the left arm during their escape attempt, Cantlie suffering ulnar nerve entrapment (loss of feeling and use of the hand) as a result.[25] In an account of the shooting, Cantlie said some of the British Muslims in the group repeatedly shouted, "die, kafir!".[26] Oerlemans then stated that "the British guys were the most vindictive of them all".[27] They were taken back to the camp where a fighter who claimed to be an NHS doctor stabilised them and treated their wounds.[28] The pair were threatened with execution.[29] Oerlemans stated that it was unclear who held them, but the group of militants were of multiple ethnicities.[30]


On 26 July 2012, one week after being kidnapped, they were rescued by four members of the Free Syrian Army.[31] The rebels came into the camp shooting their weapons and held at least one jihad fighter at gunpoint while Cantlie and Oerlemans were helped into a waiting vehicle. Both photographers had to be assisted as their feet had been seriously injured when they tried to escape and neither could walk. They had lost all their camera equipment, passports and clothes in the incident, and were smuggled back across the border at a crossing used primarily by Syrian refugees. Both photographers claimed they were about to be handed over to a jihad unit affiliated with al-Qaeda for ransom when they were rescued. They were initially treated by a medic for The New York Times in Antakya before being debriefed by Turkish and then British intelligence.

On 9 October 2012, an individual suspected of being involved in the kidnap was arrested at Heathrow Airport, after arriving on a flight from Egypt.[32][33]

This was Cantlie's second visit to Syria. In March 2012, he became the first Western photographer to witness first-hand an incursion by government ground troops into a city when T72 heavy tanks rolled into the city of Saraquib in Idlib province and started shelling indiscriminately. In a feature in The Sunday Telegraph published 31 March, Cantlie wrote: "Then the tanks opened fire. Fist-sized pieces of shrapnel sliced through the air, decapitating one rebel immediately. His rifle clattered to the ground as his friends dragged his headless torso from the line of fire." To illustrate what the Syrian rebels were up against, Cantlie took a photograph looking down the barrel of an advancing T-72.[34]

Second abduction[edit]

Cantlie had not appeared in western print or on social media since late 2012, and the trial of one of his alleged captors collapsed in 2013, when he could not be summoned as a witness.[35][36] In September 2014,[4] it was revealed Cantlie had been abducted a second time, along with American journalist James Foley. Their taxi driver and Foley's translator were not taken, however.[37][38] They had reportedly been working together on a film about Cantlie’s first abduction.[39] Foley was beheaded in August 2014.[40]

ISIL propaganda[edit]

After disappearing for almost two years following his second abduction in late 2012, Cantlie resurfaced on 18 September 2014 in a video[41] posted by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in the first episode of a multi-part series entitled Lend Me Your Ears. As of February 2015, ISIL has released a total of six videos in the Lend Me Your Ears series, all of which feature Cantlie speaking while sitting at a wooden table and wearing orange prison garb against a black backdrop. In the videos, Cantlie adopts a critical position toward Western foreign policy, including military actions, political statements, and media coverage. Cantlie is particularly critical of US and British hostage policy, comparing it unfavourably to the policy of other European countries that negotiate and pay for the release of hostages.[6]

ISIL has released three additional videos apart from the Lend Me Your Ears series. These videos are noteworthy for depicting Cantlie as a Western journalist rather than a Western hostage. In all videos, Cantlie attempts to characterise the facts on the ground in Kobani, Mosul and rebel-controlled Aleppo as far more favourable to ISIL than is portrayed in the Western media.[citation needed]

Since he is speaking as an ISIL prisoner, it is unclear whether and to what degree he holds the views he states. His sister, Jessica, has stated that her brother "believes two-thirds" of what he says in the videos.[42]

Lend Me Your Ears series[edit]

ISIL released 7 videos (counting the Introduction) in the Lend Me Your Ears series.

Video Release date Length Comments Ref.
1 18 September 2014 3:21 Introduction [43]
2 18 September 2014 5:56 "Episode 1" [44]
3 30 September 2014 5:35 "Episode 2" [45]
4 12 October 2014 6:54 "Episode 3" [46]
5 16 October 2014 7:49 "Episode 4"
6 12 November 2014 6:31 "Episode 5"
7 24 November 2014 8:53 "Episode 6" [47]

"Inside" videos[edit]

These include:

  • "Inside 'Ayn al Arab (Kobani)" (5:37 minutes), published 28 October 2014 (released to YouTube on 3 February 2015). The piece appears to have been filmed during a brief period when Kobani was occupied by ISIS.[48]
  • "Inside Mosul" (8:15 minutes), published 3 January 2015 (released to YouTube by Italian broadcaster Canal 25).[49]
  • "Inside Aleppo" (12:00 minutes), published 9 February 2015 (released to YouTube on 17 February 2015). Cantlie states in the video it will be the last film in the "Inside" series.[50]

Other videos[edit]

  • "John Cantlie Talks About the American Airstrikes on Media Kiosks in Mosul City" (3:36 minutes), published 19 March 2016. One year after the last "Inside" video Cantlie appeared in new propaganda footage from inside Mosul. [51]
  • "John Cantlie speaking about the US Bombing Mosul University and other popular areas in the City", published 12 July 2016.[52]
  • "John Cantlie Talks About Bombing the Bridges, Cutting Water and Electricity from Mosul City" (8:56 minutes), published 7 December 2016.[53][54]
  • "John Cantlie Talks About Tank Warfare in Mosul in a new video titled (Tank Hunters)" (47:11 minutes), published 13 December 2016.[55]

Publications during imprisonment[edit]

Cantlie published articles in the Dabiq, an ISIL online magazine.[56]

Current status[edit]

On 28 July 2017, the Iraqi Al-Sura News Agency alleged that Cantlie had been killed, after the Agency conducted interviews with three captured IS militants.[57] In October 2017, a French ISIS fighter told French magazine Paris Match that he had seen Cantlie "seven or eight months ago" in Raqqa.[8] In January 2019, an official of the Syrian Democratic Forces stated Cantlie may still be alive inside Deir ez-Zor Governorate, Syria.[9][10][11]

In February 2019, British Security Minister Ben Wallace stated that Cantlie is believed to still be alive.[58] A British Home Office spokesman said: "We do not discuss individual kidnap cases and speculation is unhelpful."[59] Wallace declined to give details of where British intelligence believes Cantlie is still being held by IS.[60]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Mezzofiore, Gianluca (18 September 2014). "John Cantlie Video: British Photojournalist 'Kidnapped with James Foley'". IBT. Retrieved 18 September 2014.
  2. ^ "British hostage John Cantlie seen in IS video". BBC News. 19 March 2016. Retrieved 20 March 2016.
  3. ^ McVeigh, Tracy (19 March 2016). "British journalist John Cantlie appears in new Isis video". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 March 2016.
  4. ^ a b Seibel, Mark; Prothero, Mitchell (18 September 2014). "British hostage John Cantlie, seized by Islamic State with James Foley, appears in new video". Archived from the original on 24 September 2014. Retrieved 18 September 2014.
  5. ^ "John Cantlie: Islamic State hostage in fresh video". BBC. 25 October 2014. Retrieved 26 October 2014.
  6. ^ a b End of Truth, Project Lab, 16 May 2019
  7. ^ "RSF calls for renewed efforts for John Cantlie's release after five years of captivity | Reporters without borders". RSF. 22 November 2017. Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  8. ^ a b "John Cantlie: plea for release of British Isis hostage five years after kidnap". The Guardian. Agence France-Presse. 23 November 2017. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  9. ^ a b "British journalist John Cantlie may still be alive in Syria: SDF". Rudaw. Retrieved 13 January 2019.
  10. ^ a b "Il giornalista John Cantlie è vivo". Giornalistitalia (in Italian). 13 January 2019. Retrieved 14 January 2019.
  11. ^ a b "Hevder den IS-kidnappede journalisten kan være i live". Dagbladet (in Norwegian). 14 January 2019. Retrieved 14 January 2019.
  12. ^ a b Quinn, Ben (21 October 2014). "Father of IS hostage John Cantlie dies". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 October 2014.
  13. ^ McGill, Peter McGill (2 November 2014). "Kidnapped British journalist's link to China's founding father". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  14. ^ Craggs, Francesca (14 July 2005). "Small home, big history". The Chronicle. Retrieved 23 June 2015.
  15. ^ "Paul Cantlie, father of Islamic State hostage, dies". BBC. 21 October 2014. Retrieved 26 October 2014.
  16. ^ Evans, Martin (22 October 2014). "Father of Syrian hostage John Cantlie dies". The Telegraph. Retrieved 26 October 2014.
  17. ^ "Sega Power and Cathy Dennis - Articles - SMS Power!". Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  18. ^ "Sega Power Tips (VHS Video 1992 - hints and tips, cheats & codes)". Retrieved 6 February 2019 – via YouTube.
  19. ^ "Friends of ISIS hostage John Cantlie fear fate of captive with Birmingham ties". 12 February 2015. Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  20. ^ Morse, Felicity (29 July 2012). "Syria: British Journalist John Cantlie Kidnapped With Jeroen Oerlemans Is Released By Free Syrian Army". Huffington Post. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
  21. ^ Denselow, James (21 March 2016). "ISIL and the curious case of John Cantlie". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 14 January 2019.
  22. ^ Sommers, Jack (16 March 2015). "First 'Jihadi John Murder Victim' Gave Up Escape Attempt For British Friend". HuffPost UK. Retrieved 14 January 2019.
  23. ^ Shubert, Atika; Shoichet, Catherine E. (18 September 2014). "British journalist, now ISIS hostage, sends message from terror group". Retrieved 28 October 2014.
  24. ^ "British hostage John Cantlie feared beheading in Syria". BBC News. 5 August 2012. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
  25. ^ Meikle, James (3 August 2012). "Photojournalists captured by Islamist militants in Syria feared beheading". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
  26. ^ Wood, Paul (2013). Committee to Protect Journalists (ed.). Attacks on the Press: Journalism on the World's Front Lines. John Wiley & Sons. p. 1998. ISBN 9781118611296.
  27. ^ Mezzofiore, Gianluca (18 September 2014). "John Cantlie Video: Who is Photojournalist Held by Isis?". International Business Times. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
  28. ^ Whitehead, Tom (11 November 2013). "NHS doctor accused of Syrian kidnap has case dropped". The Telegraph. Retrieved 28 July 2017.
  29. ^ Lestch, Corinne (19 September 2014). "ISIS captive John Cantlie described revisiting spot where he was first kidnapped in Syria". New York Daily News. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
  30. ^ Chulov, Martin (27 July 2012). "Jihadists in Syria release two journalists captured a week ago". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
  31. ^ Guru-Murthy, Krishnan (5 August 2012). "British photographer freed by FSA". Channel 4.
  32. ^ Sengupta, Kim (10 October 2012). "Suspect arrested at Heathrow". The Independent.
  33. ^ Whitehead, Tom (10 August 2012). "Police investigate whether terror suspect is NHS doctor". The Telegraph. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
  34. ^ Cantlie, John (31 March 2012). "Syria eyewitness dispatch: 'I watched as Assad's tanks rolled in to destroy a rebel town'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 26 October 2014.
  35. ^ Wagner, Meg (18 September 2014). "Who is John Cantlie? ISIS-held UK journalist once escaped previous kidnapping in Syria". New York Daily News. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
  36. ^ "Syria Kidnap Case Against Doctor Dropped by Prosecution". BBC News. 11 November 2013. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  37. ^ "Evaporated". Vanity Fair. 14 April 2014.
  38. ^ "The Horror Before the Beheadings". The New York Times. 26 October 2014. Retrieved 20 March 2016.
  39. ^ Culaba, Anna. "VIDEO: Meet ISIS' New Oprah, British Hostage John Cantlie". Archived from the original on 28 November 2014. Retrieved 14 November 2014.
  40. ^ Meek, James Gordon; Schwartz, Rhonda (18 September 2014). "Missing British Hostage John Cantlie Surfaces Alive in New ISIS Video". ABC News. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  41. ^ "Video of British hostage John Cantlie released". BBC News Online. 18 September 2014. Retrieved 18 September 2014.
  42. ^ Fox, Aine (19 October 2014). "Isis hostage John Cantlie believes 'at least two-thirds' of what he says in propaganda videos, says sister". The Independent. Retrieved 28 July 2017.
  43. ^ "Video of British hostage John Cantlie released". BBC News. BBC. 18 September 2014. Retrieved 6 August 2021.
  44. ^ "Second video of British hostage John Cantlie released". BBC News. BBC. 23 September 2014. Retrieved 6 August 2021.
  45. ^ "ISIS releases new video of British hostage John Cantlie". NY Post. Associated Press. 30 September 2014. Retrieved 6 August 2021.
  46. ^ Masi, Alessandria (16 October 2014). "New ISIS Video: Propaganda Series 'Lend Me Your Ears' Features Kidnapped Journalist John Cantlie". IBTimes. Retrieved 6 August 2021.
  47. ^ Mosendz, Polly (21 November 2014). "ISIS Hostage John Cantlie Appears in New Video". Newsweek. Retrieved 6 August 2021.
  48. ^ Cowell, Alan (28 October 2014). "John Cantlie, British Hostage, Seen in ISIS Video Apparently From Kobani". NY Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 6 August 2021.
  49. ^ "YouTube". Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  50. ^ "John Cantlie: a final message from a hostage to misfortune?". The Conversation. 13 February 2015. Retrieved 6 August 2021.
  51. ^ "British hostage John Cantlie seen in IS video". BBC. BBC. 19 March 2016. Retrieved 20 March 2016.
  52. ^ "Captive British Journalist Looks Frail in New ISIS Propaganda Video". FOREIGN POLICY. FOREIGN POLICY. Retrieved 12 July 2016.
  53. ^ "Gaunt-looking U.K. hostage used in new ISIS propaganda video". CBS News. 7 December 2016.
  54. ^ "WATCH: John Cantlie Featured in New ISIS Video From Mosul". 7 December 2016.
  55. ^ "WATCH: John Cantlie Featured in New ISIS Video About Tank Warfare in Mosul". Retrieved 13 December 2016.
  56. ^ Evans, Robert (19 November 2015). "7 Things I Learned Reading Every Issue Of ISIS's Magazine". Demand Media.
  57. ^ "British journalist held hostage by ISIL reported dead in Mosul: Iraqi media". Newsdesk. All Masdar. 28 July 2017.
  58. ^ Callimachi, Rukmini; Kirkpatrick, David D.; Pérez-Peña, Richard (5 February 2019). "John Cantlie, a British Journalist Held Hostage by ISIS, Is Believed to Be Still Alive". NY Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 4 November 2019.
  59. ^ "John Cantlie: British IS hostage 'believed to be still alive'". BBC. 5 February 2019. Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  60. ^ "British Isis hostage John Cantlie still alive, UK government says". The Guardian. 5 February 2019. Retrieved 5 May 2019.

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