LONDON: A British photographer who was held hostage in Syria for a week said Sunday that his captors were international jihadists who included several Britons.
Freelance photographer John Cantile and his Dutch colleague Jeroen Oerlemans were kidnapped in northern Syria on July 19 and freed a week later.
Writing in the Sunday Times newspaper, Cantile said he was held in a camp by some 30 Islamist militants from Britain, Pakistan and Russia’s volatile republic of Chechnya.
He added that he and Oerlemans escaped with help from members of the Free Syrian Army, one of the groups fighting forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad. Both Cantile and Oerlemans were wounded when their captors fired shots after the fleeing men.
“I ended up running for my life, barefoot and handcuffed, while British jihadists – young men with south London accents – shot to kill,” he wrote.
“They were aiming their Kalashnikovs at a British journalist, Londoner against Londoner in a rocky landscape that looked like the Scottish Highlands.
“Not a Syrian in sight,” he added. “This wasn’t what I had expected.”
Cantile said that around a dozen of the captors spoke English and of these, around nine had London accents.
“Two of them were so Anglicized they couldn’t speak Arabic,” he said.
Britain’s Foreign Office confirmed that Cantile had been held in a camp, and said it took any claims that Britons were among foreign fighters in Syria very seriously.
“We are monitoring the situation as closely as possible,” a ministry spokesman told AFP.
“Clearly, the deteriorating security situation in Syria leaves a dangerous space for foreign fighters. The solution lies in securing robust international action to resolve the crisis.”