British Isis hostage John Cantlie ‘urges Government to talk to militants’

Article appears after the MoD confirms that British soldiers would head to northern Iraq to help train Kurdish forces

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The British hostage John Cantlie has appeared in an online article calling for the British Government to “open a channel and negotiate” with Isis.

It appeared hours after the Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed that a “specialist” team of British soldiers would head to northern Iraq to help train Kurdish forces fighting the Islamic militant group.

The article, published in the Isis online magazine Dabiq, coincided with a fourth propaganda video featuring the 43-year-old photojournalist. In it he claimed Isis was “dug in for the fight” and that it was “conceivable” that foreign jihadists may return to their home countries to launch attacks.

Britain has stepped up its attack on Isis in recent weeks, with news emerging over the weekend that British troops are close to the frontline of the fight between Isis and Kurdish fighters in Irbil.


The team of “non-combat army trainers” will provide training for “heavy machine guns that were gifted by the UK last month,” a Government spokeswoman said.

The development will inevitably draw criticism of “mission creep” with the move marking the first time British troops have been active on Iraqi soil since May 2011. The training group will join a small UK military reconnaissance team, which has already been on the ground for several weeks, with some 12 soldiers, from the 2nd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment, understood to be involved.

Criticism over Western hostage policy has intensified since the murder of British hostages Alan Henning and David Haines and Americans Stephen Sotloff and James Foley. All four were cellmates of Mr Cantlie, the article reveals, adding that: “If our countries had just talked to the mujahidin, our chances of survival wouldn’t have been low at all.”

The US has the starkest position on hostage negotiation and considers ransom payment akin to funding terrorism – for which it will prosecute. The UK government does not formerly pay ransoms.

The Dabiq piece also cites Bowe Bergdahl, the US infantryman held by the Taliban for almost five years and freed in May in return for the release of five Afghans from Guantanamo Bay. “Our political leaders have the power, if they choose to change things,” it concludes, adding: “Just ask our government to talk. That’s all. Open a channel and negotiate with the Islamic State like the others did. If nothing is possible to agree on, then fine, but it cannot compromise policy to open a dialogue.”

The Foreign Office would not be drawn on a response. A spokesman said on Sunday night: “We are aware of the video and the article and are investigating their contents.”

The article also refers to a failed rescue mission by elite US Special Forces earlier this summer. It reads: “Yes, America tried to rescue us, but instead of spending all those millions of dollars sending ninja commandos and risking countless more lives like it was a Hollywood action movie, wouldn’t it have been safer and wiser to have discussed options for prisoner exchange in the first place?”