John-Paul Ford Rojas, Telegraph (London), August 27, 2012
An NHS doctor led a group of Islamic extremists who took a British photographer hostage as he covered the conflict in Syria, the former captive has claimed.
John Cantlie said the fighter told him he had taken two years’ leave from a London hospital to travel to the Middle East for holy war.
The medic was said to have described his hospital experience in detail and carried NHS medical kit, saying he planned to return to the UK to become a trauma consultant in A&E, according to Mr Cantlie’s account to a newspaper.
Last night, MI6 was said to be trying to track down the doctor.
Mr Cantlie, 41, and Dutch colleague Jeroen Oerlemans were held captive at a camp two miles inside the Syrian border last month before being rescued by Syrian rebels.
The photographer told The Sun on Sunday: “It was a bit of a surprise to find an NHS doctor as one of our captors – with an AK-47 and preaching sharia law.
“I asked him for his help as we were both from London. But he refused to even send a text to my girlfriend to say we were alive. He said he would be beheaded if he did.
“When we asked his name he said ‘Just call me the doctor. I’m the only one here.’ He told us he had a wife and a child in London.
“He spoke with a south London accent and said he had taken two years out from his work as an NHS doctor to fight jihad.”
The doctor, believed to be 28 and of Pakistani descent, was apparently one of ten to 15 Britons at the camp – many of them from London.
The captors belonged to the al Absi organisation, a small group of militants trying to use the revolt in Syria to convert the country to a sharia law state.
According to Mr Cantlie, the doctor said that “treating jihadists wounded in battle” was good training for his future career as a trauma specialist in the UK.
The man treated the photographers’ injuries when they were shot trying to escape but seemed disappointed when two others, who were Syrian, were not beheaded, saying they were “definitely spies”, it was claimed.