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Missing British Hostage Surfaces Alive in New ISIS Video

YouTube(LONDON) -- A British citizen captured in Syria two years ago has resurfaced Thursday in a new ISIS propaganda video released on YouTube. But unlike the previous gruesome beheading videos of three westerners, journalist John Cantlie is seen alive, seated alone at a desk in a darkened room, delivering what he says is the first of a series of "messages" about ISIS.

Cantlie was abducted in November 2012 along with slain American journalist James Foley, who was beheaded by his ISIS captors, according to a former law enforcement official and others familiar with the journalists’ kidnapping.

Until Thursday, Cantlie’s hostage status had been kept under a media blackout in the U.K. When Cantlie was seized with Foley, it was the second time he had been kidnapped in Syria, and just prior to his being called as a witness in a British terror trial whose defendants were dismissed when Cantlie disappeared.

Foley and Cantlie were working on a film about Cantlie’s dramatic escape from his first abduction when they were kidnapped.

Unlike the previous ISIS videos shot in outdoor locations, the dark indoor scene appears designed to prevent intelligence analysts and U.S. drones from gathering clues about where it may have been shot. U.S. intelligence analysts were studying previously released beheading videos for geographic clues that might lead to potential rescue operations.

In the video, Cantlie says that he’s going to appear in other videos that show the “truth behind what happened” in other kidnapping cases.

“Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, ‘He’s only doing this because he’s a prisoner. He’s got a gun to his head and he’s being forced to do this,’ Right? Well, it’s true. I am a prisoner. That I cannot deny,” Cantlie says. “But seeing as how I’ve been abandoned by my government and my fate now lies in the hands of the Islamic State [ISIS], I have nothing to lose. Maybe I will live and maybe I will die.”

Cantlie, dressed in an orange jumpsuit and seated at a table, appeared to be reading his message from a teleprompter in a slickly filmed, three-camera production. Unlike the previous videos, no members of ISIS are seen in the film.

Cantlie said there would be future messages from him that would show the “truth behind the systems and motivation of the Islamic State and how the Western media, the very organization I used to work for, can twist and manipulate that truth for the public back home."

"The video is almost certainly scripted by Cantlie's captors, and we shouldn't take it at face value,” said J.M. Berger, terrorism expert and co-author of the forthcoming book ISIS: The State of Terror. “Ultimately they don't expect ordinary people in the West to take the bait. They are trying to stir up trouble on the fringes and reassure their base…There is a clear effort to fuel political discontent over Western action against the Islamic State…”

The video release comes after ISIS threatened to kill another British citizen, Alan Henning, over the British government’s support for U.S. action against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

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Pope Francis' Hat Up for Auction on eBay

neneos/iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(VATICAN CITY) -- Want to own an authentic skullcap worn by Pope Francis? You can buy it on eBay -- if you’re willing to fork over at least $258,000 -- and that price is rapidly going up.

The host of an Italian TV show managed to trade hats with the pontiff as he rode around St. Peter's Square. The host of the show reached out towards Francis with a new skullcap. Security handed the skullcap to the pope, who stopped the car, examined it, put it on his head, and gave the old one to the show’s host.

The skullcap was posted to eBay Wednesday night and by Thursday afternoon, it already had 134 bids topping €200,000. The auction closes on Sept. 24.

Agence France-Presse reports the show, Le Iene (The Hyenas), will donate the money to an Italian charity fighting child mortality in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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US Military Hits More ISIS Targets in Iraq

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. military conducted two more airstrikes against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) targets across Iraq, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said Thursday.

One strike was southeast of Mosul, near an ISIS training camp. It "destroyed an ISIL armed vehicle, two ISIL-occupied buildings and a large ISIL ground unit," CENTCOM said in a statement, using one of several acronyms for the militant Islamic group.

According to a Defense official, an estimated 40 ISIS fighters were killed in the attack.

The other strike was southeast of Baghdad and damaged an ISIS ammunition stockpile.

The bomber and fighter aircraft used in the strikes, which were carried out Wednesday and Thursday, all managed to exit the area safely.

Since Aug. 8, CENTCOM says it has carried out 176 airstrikes across Iraq.

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Thirteen-Word Paper Ballot Will Decide Scotland's Future

Courtesy Guy Dorey(NEW YORK) -- The Scots wasted no words when they settled on language for the ballot used to determine whether they'll break away from the United Kingdom: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

"Vote (X) only once," the white-paper referendum reads. Yes or No. That's it: 13 words in total.

Such simplicity belies the potentially complex future that awaits Scotland if a simple majority of its citizens decides they want to strike out on their own, which could be thousands of pen marks away from reality.

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French President Authorizes Airstrikes Against ISIS in Iraq

Antoine Antoniol/Getty Images(PARIS) -- French President Francois Hollande said Thursday he officially authorized French air attacks against ISIS in Iraq.

“In a national security council meeting this morning, I gave authorization to respond favorably to Iraq’s request,” for the airstrikes, Hollande told reporters in Paris. “I won’t go beyond that. There will be no troops on the ground and we’ll only intervene in Iraq.”

France now joins the U.S. in the battle against the militant group from the air. Since Aug. 8, the U.S. military has conducted more than 170 airstrikes against ISIS targets in Iraq.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee Thursday, was handed a note about the news, to which he responded: “We obviously welcome that public announcement.”

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Pregnant Duchess Kate Cancels Solo Tour of Malta

Chris Jackson/Getty Images(LONDON) -- The Duchess of Cambridge has made the difficult decision to cancel her first solo foreign visit to Malta this weekend, Kensington Palace announced Thursday.

Kate, 32, had been planning to attend the 50th anniversary celebrations in Malta at the request of her grandmother-in-law, Her Majesty The Queen.

"The Duchess of Cambridge will no longer visit Malta this weekend. The Duke of Cambridge will undertake the visit instead,” the palace said in a statement.

"Her Royal Highness continues to suffer from the effects of hyperemesis gravidarum. The decision not to travel was taken by the duke and duchess on the advice of the duchess's doctors,” the statement read.

Kate and Prince William announced earlier this month that the duchess is pregnant with the couple’s second child. The palace announced the pregnancy after Kate was unable to travel to an event with William due to hyperemesis gravidarum, a condition marked by acute nausea and sometimes dehydration.

Kate and William were also forced to announce their first pregnancy with now 1-year-old son, Prince George, when Kate was admitted to a London hospital in the early stages of that pregnancy for the same condition.

Kate is believed to be about eight weeks along now, but still before the 12 week mark when most couples elect to share news of a pregnancy.

The palace said, "The Duke is honored to represent Her Majesty The Queen on the visit, which commemorates the 50th anniversary of Malta's independence. The visit itinerary remains unchanged."

Malta holds a special place in the queen's heart as she and Prince Philip spent time there during Prince Philips’ naval officer posting shortly after they were married. The queen has often said it was one of the few places they were able enjoy a "normal" life.

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Scots Head to the Polls Thursday to Vote on Independence

iStock/Thinkstock(EDINBURGH, Scotland) -- The people of Scotland are heading to the polls Thursday to vote on an historic referendum on whether to secede from the United Kingdom. The polls opened at 7 a.m. local time and will remain open until 10 p.m. local.

A vote to break away would grant Scotland independence for the first time in over 300 years and separate it from the rest of Great Britain, which also includes England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Various opinion polls show a slight majority favoring maintaining the status quo, but after allowing for margins of error, it’s pretty much too close to call.

The voter turnout is heavy already.  As of Wednesday, 98 percent of eligible voters had registered.

It's a very different kind of election than what would take place in the United States. There is no exit polling or last minute campaigning, just people lining up at the polls and then counting the ballots. It's expected, given how close this vote seems, that people will not know the results of this referendum until Friday morning breakfast time in Scotland.

Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, a Scotsman, seemed almost overcome with emotion Wednesday as he summoned the ghosts of the United Kingdom's war dead down through the centuries, "Scotsmen, Welshmen, Englishmen and Irishmen lying side by side."

"We who vote 'no' love Scotland," Brown said.

Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond, supports a "yes" vote for independence. "This is our opportunity of a lifetime and we must seize it with both hands," Salmond said.

At the heart of the debate for separation from London is a bitter dissatisfaction among many Scots with a trend in the United Kingdom towards a more market-based conservatism than people in Scotland want.

Scots have come to see themselves as more European, more socially democratic, and less reflexively pro-American in foreign policy than the establishment that governs them from London.

President Obama weighed in on the referendum on Twitter.  The president tweeted, “The UK is an extraordinary partner for America and a force for good in an unstable world. I hope it remains strong, robust and united. -bo"

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Prince Harry Reportedly Spotted with Former Flame Cressida Bonas

Chris Jackson/Getty Images(LONDON) -- On-again, off-again girlfriend Cressida Bonas appears to have rekindled her relationship with Prince Harry.

Bonas, 25, was reportedly a guest at an intimate 30th birthday party held Wednesday night for Prince Harry at Clarence House.

"They’ve decided they want to give it a second-go," ABC News' royal contributor Victoria Murphy said of the pair, who split in April after nearly two years together.

Prince Harry and Bonas were also spotted attending a movie together in Kensington a few days ago, according to the U.K.'s The Sun.

The newspaper reports the pair attended the new Cameron Diaz movie, Sex Tape. After the movie, Harry jumped into a car with his protection officer and Bonas got into a separate cab but both headed in the direction of Kensington Palace, The Sun reports.

Bonas also made a surprise visit Sunday to attend the closing concert of Prince Harry's Invictus Games in London. She reportedly cut short a family wedding to make it back in time for the event, which she attended with Harry’s cousin, Princess Eugenie, who first introduced the pair.

When Bonas and Prince Harry took a break in April after a two-year relationship, it was the intense media interest that was said to have overwhelmed Bonas. The blond, a trained dancer, was said to have wanted to focus on her career as a dancer and actress.

Prior to their split, Bonas was Harry's first serious relationship since breaking up with long-term girlfriend Chelsy Davy in 2011 after a nearly seven year on-again, off-again relationship.

Prince Harry has made no secret he would like to have children but finding a girlfriend who can deal with cameras following him everywhere has been challenging.

At Wednesday night's birthday party, Bonas was one of just a small group of close friends who celebrated with Prince Harry at Clarence House. The prince and his guests, all dressed in fancy attire, had the run of Clarence House while Harry's father, Prince Charles, is away on summer holiday at his Birkhall residence in Scotland.

"Harry of course has learned from his mistakes in the past few years," Murphy said. "He knows that if he’s going to celebrate, if he’s going to have a drink, if he’s going to have a big party, that he doesn’t want to be doing that in a public place."

Singer Ellie Goulding, who headlined at Harry's Invictus Games' concert and did a special set at Prince William and Kate's wedding, reportedly entertained the guests.

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Bachelorette Party Safe After Getting Stranded in Cabo in Odile's Wake

Courtesy Morgan Essenheimer(SAN DIEGO) -- Morgan Essenheimer is relieved to be home, back with her fiance in California.

The bride-to-be was airlifted to San Diego Airport along with seven members of her bridal party after being stranded in Cabo, San Lucas, Mexico for three days with no way to contact anyone back home.

“There was just chaos and madness everywhere,” Essenheimer said. “Not being able to speak with your loved ones or even just hear their voice, that was probably one of the worst things that could have happened to us."

Essenheimer and her bachelorette party were among 30,000 tourists believed to have been stranded by Hurricane Odile, which wreaked havoc on the resort area Sunday. The storm destroyed buildings, knocking out power and leaving looters in its wake.

For some, the nightmare isn’t over yet.

Daniel Vigil is still trying to contact his relatives. The last contact he had with his missing mother, brother and aunt was a photo they texted to him upon arriving for their week-long vacation on Saturday, five days ago. After the Category 3 hurricane bore down on their hotel, Vigil had no way to get in touch with his family.

“It’s a roller coaster of emotion when you go through something like this,” Vigil said. “You hope for the best, but your imagination can’t help but run wild and fear the worst.”

The hotel where they were staying reported that all of its guests and crew were safe Monday. But Vigil says that’s not much consolation.

“We don’t know how much food is available, whether there’s bottled water, enough bottled water, whether our family knows of how they should evacuate and the availability of the flights,” he said.

Vigil’s not alone, with people using the search topic #FindOdile to track down their loved ones.

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Australia Counterterrorism Operation Results in Multiple Arrests

TkKurikawa/iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW SOUTH WALES, Australia) -- Police executed a raid in the northwest suburbs of Sydney on Wednesday, the result of a counterterrorism operation.

More than 800 police officers were involved in the arrests of 15 people connected to the ISIS terror group. Seventy properties were raided in Brisbane. The operation was undertaken by the New South Wales police and the Australian Federal Police.

According to ABC Austalia, law enforcement officials say Afgan Australians were planning to kidnap and behead random members of the public. Police allege that an Australian fighting with ISIS in Syria -- Mohammed Ali Baryalei -- is behind the plot.

Omarjan Azari also is accused of plotting to abduct civilians off the streets and decapitate them in a manner similar to the recent ISIS beheadings of U.S. and U.K. citizens in Syria. The charges against Azari stem from a phone call intercepted by law enforcement earlier this week.

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Toronto Mayor Rob Ford Diagnosed with Cancer

ABC/Randy Holmes(TORONTO) -- Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has been diagnosed with cancer, his doctor said Wednesday.

In a press conference at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Dr. Zane Cohen said that tests have confirmed a "fairly aggressive tumor" in the mayor's abdomen. Doctors hope to treat the tumor "very aggressively."

Cohen said the diagnosis was liposarcoma, a cancer of the fat cells in soft tissue. The cancer spread from the primary tumor, which measured 12 cm by 12 cm to a second, smaller tumor.

Ford will undergo chemotherapy within the next 48 hours and may also undergo radiation to shrink the tumors before turning to surgery.

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Will Syrian Rebels Stop Fighting Assad to Fight ISIS Instead?

Photo by John Cantlie/Getty Images)(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday the Obama administration believes that moderate Syrian rebels that the U.S. plans to train and equip will stop fighting the Assad regime and instead make defeating ISIS their priority, a strategy that one skeptic said was "unrealistic."

Kerry suggested ISIS, which also goes by the acronym ISIL and Islamic State, was a bigger threat to the moderate rebels than the forces of President Bashar al-Assad, despite the fact that the rebels and Assad's forces have been locked in brutal combat for the past three years.

“Our belief, therefore, is that as the principal antagonist to their presence -- more so than Assad in some ways -- starts to take hits and [the rebels] gain greater strength, greater training, greater equipment, greater capacity, the success will bring to them, we think, larger structure as well as greater know-how and ability," Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“And if ISIL is defeated, they’re going to be taking that experience in the same direction that they originally set out to, which is to deal with Assad,” he said.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., expressed incredulity that the administration would insist on Syria’s rebels taking on one adversary and ignoring the other.

“You cannot ask people to go and fight and die unless you've promised them that you will defeat their enemy, and defeat them right away. You can't say wait until we defeat ISIL,” he said.

Robert Ford, the United States’ former ambassador to Syria who testified after Kerry at the same hearing, said it was unlikely that moderate rebels would switch targets.

“Absolutely,” Ford said when asked whether the Syrian opposition would continue to fight Assad. “The idea that they would turn away… is simply unrealistic.”

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Muslims in Same Aid Convoy as Alan Henning Plead for His Release

zabelin/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- The organizer of a British Muslim aid convoy that was with Alan Henning when he was kidnapped in Syria has launched a direct appeal to the leader of the terrorist organization that is threatening the life of the British national.

In a video posted to YouTube, Pervez Rafiq appears in traditional Muslim dress and pleads with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), also known as the Islamic State, vouching for Henning’s innocence and good intentions.

“[Henning] has shown through his actions and love and concern for our brothers and sisters that he is not an enemy of Islam or the Islamic State,” Rafiq said. “We plead with you to show him compassion and mercy as he showed compassion and mercy for the Muslims of Syria.”

Rafiq chokes up as he says, “Please, please, please release Alan.”

Also on Wednesday British television aired what appears to be the last known video of Henning before he was taken hostage in December 2013. In the video, Henning appears determined and enthusiastic about the aid convoy’s mission to help the Syrian people.

“It’s all worthwhile, you see, what is needed absolutely gets where it needs to go -- that makes it all worthwhile, no sacrifice we do is compared to what they go through every day on a daily basis” Henning said in the video, reportedly filmed on Christmas Day in a restaurant in Turkey hours before the aid convoy crossed into Syria.

Henning reportedly left his wife of 23 years, Barbara, 45, and two teenage children at home in Salford, Greater Manchester, last Christmastime to join a group of Muslim friends in making what British newspaper The Bolton News described as a 20-vehicle, 4,000-mile journey to Syria to deliver medical supplies to refugees caught up in the country’s civil war. Masked gunmen reportedly stopped the convoy after it crossed the Turkish border Dec. 26 and targeted Henning, separating him from the group.

“He was taking over old ambulances, just helping out as much as he could,” a close friend told the Telegraph newspaper on Sunday. “There were a few of them that went out with him. They were just a group of mates that started it all off. They were supposed to be over there for about six months, but he was kidnapped just a few days after he left.”

Henning was identified as the next ISIS victim at the end of the beheading video of British aid worker David Haines released Saturday. Prior to Haines’ death, an self-described ISIS militant was suspected of killing American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.

Henning had reportedly previously traveled to Syria as part of two similar humanitarian aid convoys organized by the small, informal volunteer group Aid 4 Syria and the UK Arab Society. BBC journalist Catrin Nye met Henning while making a documentary about such convoys to Syria and told the Guardian how the first trip to Syria moved Henning to do more.

“It had been a life-changing experience,” Nye said. “He had handed out the goods. He described holding the children … and how that really affected him. He told me he had to go back.”

Henning even permanently inked his commitment to the cause, as another convoy organizer told The Bolton News, “He loved the cause so much that when he went on holiday with his family, he had a big tattoo across his arm, saying, ‘aid for Syria.’ He was that dedicated.”

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Mapping Obama's Strategy to Defeat ISIS in Iraq

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The Obama administration's strategy for defeating ISIS in Iraq envisions the Islamic terror group squeezed on three sides and from the air, making their grip on northern Iraq "untenable."

The strategy was laid out Tuesday by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in a Senate hearing.

The plan includes:

  • Training a force of 5,000 moderate Syrian rebels to take the areas that border Iraq, although Dempsey acknowledged it may take a force of 12,000 to wrest the area from ISIS forces. If the U.S. trained rebels were attacked by Syrian government forces, the U.S. would help them, Hagel said.
  • Advise Iraqi troops for an offensive that would launch northward from west and north of Baghdad.
  • Kurdish forces in the north of Iraq would push south into areas held by ISIS.
  • Combined with U.S. air power, the multi-pronged attack would put ISIS “in an untenable position,” Dempsey said.
  • Get help from Arab countries that hopefully will provide special forces, trainers, tankers and strike aircraft.

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US Military Launches Seven Airstrikes Against ISIS Targets in Iraq

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. military conducted seven more airstrikes against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) targets across Iraq, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said Wednesday.

One strike was northwest of the Haditha Dam and "destroyed an ISIL armed vehicle," CENTCOM said in a statement, using one of several acronyms for the militant Islamic group.

"[T]wo airstrikes destroyed two ISIL armed vehicles northwest of Irbil, and four airstrikes southwest of Baghdad destroyed several small ISIL ground units and a small boat on the Euphrates River that was re-supplying ISIL forces in the area," the statement continued.

The fighter, attack and remotely piloted aircraft used in the strikes all managed to exit the area safely.

With these latest attacks, which were conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday, CENTCOM says it has carried out 174 airstrikes across Iraq since Aug. 8.

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