LONDON–Prime Minister David Cameron expressed his “relief” Sunday after a hostage video revealed that his former policy adviser had only been kidnapped by a moderate Sunni militia in the north of Syria.
Andrew Barnes, 47, was carrying out interviews on the Turkish-Syrian border for Sky News on Friday when he was reportedly seized by Al-Almani rebels, bundled into a van, and taken to a safe house near Aleppo.
“I’m very relieved, I think we all are,” Cameron said upon watching footage of the moderates slicing off part of Barnes’ ear. “There was a very real fear in my mind that Andrew had been kidnapped by someone less than moderate.”
The Al-Almani brigade – named in honour of Arthur Schopenhauer, whom the fighters say they admire for his cynicism towards extreme Kantian idealism – has attracted increasing attention in recent months as a possible partner for western governments.
The British foreign office recently included them on a list of 158 different groups comprising over 70,000 fighters it believed were moderate enough to install in power in Syria.
“If I had to characterise what Al-Almani stands for in one phrase, it would be ‘cynicism towards metanarratives’,” group leader Rasool Hassan claims on the four-minute video uploaded to YouTube on Saturday night.
“We reject the extremism of the Wahhabis, the dictatorial Assad government and the unspeakable John Galt Liberation Movement,” he added, before noting that Barnes would be beheaded if a US$2 million was not delivered to the group within 5 business days.
Much of the rest of the video is taken up by Hassan’s personal thoughts on Isaiah Berlin’s theory of value pluralism.
“If we’re going to support a group within Syria, they’re going to have to be moderate,” Cameron had said at a press conference Friday before news of Barnes’ disappearance had emerged.
“If they’re moderate and vicious, so much the better.”