Update: The Islamic State video of John Cantlie in Kobane, which was included above, has been removed from YouTube. It has been replaced with an image from the video.
The Islamic State has released a video featuring John Cantlie, a British war reporter who has been held hostage since 2012, in what is claimed to be the Syrian border town of Kobane. An image of Cantlie from the video can be seen above.
The US and its coalition partners have launched a number of airstrikes against the Islamic State’s forces in and around the town. And Kurdish forces are battling the jihadists on the ground.
Western and Kurdish sources have claimed in the press that they have pushed back the Islamic State’s advances. But Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s organization uses Cantlie to say this is not the case.
In the 5 minute, 32 second video, titled “Inside ‘Ayn Al-Islam,” Cantlie appears to be stationed somewhere in Kobane during broad daylight. At one point he points to the Turkish flag in the distance.
Cantlie is made to say, contrary to the claims made by UK and US officials, that the Islamic State’s “mujahideen” are near victory. The jihadists are “definitely not on the run,” and all Cantlie can see around him are the group’s mujahideen — not their Kurdish opponents.
The video begins with an aerial shot supposedly taken by the “Drone of the Islamic State Army.” The aerial footage shows a town that has been ravaged by warfare.
The video then cuts to a scene of Cantlie, who says that he is standing in the “heart” of the PKK’s “so-called safe zone, which is now controlled entirely by the Islamic State.”
The PKK, as it is known, is the Kurdistan Workers Party, which is fighting against the Islamic State’s guerrilla forces. The PKK has been designated a foreign terrorist organization by the US government.
Despite the American airstrikes, Cantlie is made to say that “the mujahideen have pushed deep into the heart of the city” and are controlling the eastern and southern sectors.
Cantlie then briefly looks around, noting that he can’t see any Western journalists. He cites a number of accounts in the Western media, and quotes US officials, before dismissing them.
“There are no journalists here in the city, so the media are getting their information from Kurdish commanders and White House press secretaries, neither of whom have the slightest intention of telling the truth of what’s happening here on the ground,” Cantlie says.
He claims that because the coalition’s airstrikes have prevented the Islamic State from using its heavy artillery, the group has adjusted and is using lighter armaments, moving from house to house. It is for this reason, the Islamic State has Cantlie say, that the bombings are not enough to defeat the jihadist group in Kobane or elsewhere.
The Islamic State also has Cantlie mock the US, noting its “hopeless” Air Force has resupplied the mujahideen by dropping two crates of weapons to the group. Cantlie is referencing recent footage showing crates of weapons, which were intended for the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), but mistakenly dropped into the Islamic State’s hands. The YPG is the Syrian branch of the PKK.
Cantlie concludes by saying that the battle for Kobane is “coming to an end,” as the Islamic State is “mopping up” now in the streets.
The New York Times: Cantlie and other hostages endure “excruciating suffering”
The Islamic State’s video of Cantlie is a propaganda device, and is intended to undermine Western claims about the efficacy of the airstrikes. The fog of war makes any clear-eyed assessment of the situation difficult.
There is no telling what treatment Cantlie has been subjected to while in the Islamic State’s custody. A recent article by The New York Times‘ Rukmini Callimachi pieced together the hostages’ stories from multiple sources, concluding that they experienced “excruciating suffering.”
Cantlie was abducted alongside James Foley, an American who was subsequently beheaded by the Islamic State in August. According to the Times, Cantlie and Foley were initially held by the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in the country. They were guarded by “an English-speaking trio whom they nicknamed ‘the Beatles,'” and which “seemed to take pleasure in brutalizing them.”
Eventually, both Foley and Cantlie became the Islamic State’s hostages.