A British photographer, who was captured by Syrian militants, has claimed that his captors included “jihadists’’ from United Kingdom, Pakistan and Bangladesh confirming reports that the Syrian Free Army fighting the regime of President Bashar Assad has been heavily infiltrated by foreign extremists.
John Cantlie and his Dutch colleague Jeroen Oerlemans were held at a camp for a week in July after they illegally crossed into Syria. He said there were "between 10 and 15 young jihadists from the UK’’.
"I think these are disenchanted young men from the UK who are now unified under this jihadist banner. I think they took out their angst on us," Mr. Cantlie told the BBC.
The British Foreign Office said it was taking the claim “very seriously’’ and closely “monitoring’’ the situation in Syria.
"We are monitoring the situation as closely as possible. 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," said a spokesman.
Mr Cantlie said that militants threatened to behead him and his colleague.
"At one point they even started sharpening knives for a beheading. It was pretty frightening," he said.
"They were from anywhere but Syria. They were from Pakistan, Bangladesh, the UK and Chechnya. A real mix’’, he added.
Mr Cantlie said he and Mr. Oerlemans were able to escape with the help of four members of the FSA.
Both were shot as they fled. Mr. Cantlie was shot in the arm, and Mr. Oerlemans in the thigh.