A British citizen captured in Syria two years ago has resurfaced today 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 today, 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, 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.