British journalist John Cantlie, who has appeared in a number of Islamic State propaganda videos and magazine articles since he was kidnapped in Syria in 2012, reappears in a new video after a four-month absence that raised concerns about his continued survival.
Once again, his skills as a journalist have been exploited by Isis in an attempt to lend credibility to propaganda films. On this occasion he discusses the bombing of Mosul University and is filmed by a camera that appears at a later stage to be attached to a drone as it flies over a city landscape strewn with rubble.
Wearing a long shirt and black trousers, he introduces himself before telling viewers that he is standing in front of the remains of the university. “You have to ask yourself: why did the coalition decide to destroy the university?” he says, adding: “Normal, social everyday life has been destroyed and if you are going to destroy a university, why bother?”
“The level of destruction is absolutely massive. Mosul University was the biggest and finest in all of Iraq,” Cantlie adds, claiming that 15 people were killed and 103 injured during the strike. “If it was a military point or a weapons cache or a training ground for the mujahedeen perhaps you could understand – but it was simply Mosul’s and Iraq’s finest university, now reduced to a huge pile of rubble.”
As CNN observes, reports of the Mosul University bombing were filed in March. The pre-ISIS provincial governor said his contacts within Mosul reported the university was indeed being used as a base for ISIS fighters, 17 of whom were killed during the air attack.
The ISIS video also uses Cantlie to complain about coalition bombings that hit several shopping areas across Mosul.
The March video featuring Cantlie also used him to complain about the damage from coalition bombing of Mosul, in that case, cheap ISIS media kiosks that America was supposedly spending billions of dollars to blow up.
Fox News notes that at least parts of it appear to have been shot recently as it features people shopping for food to break the Ramadan fast that ended on July 5. The video was released through the Islamic State’s “news network,” Amaq.
There has been much speculation about Cantlie’s status, with some arguing that he has been forced at gunpoint to do propaganda work for his captors, while others speculate he has been brainwashed or converted to the ISIS cause through “Stockholm syndrome.”
He actually stated he was operating under duress in his first ISIS video appearance, but there was no sign of coercion in subsequent appearances. The Washington Post reports that a former Islamic State videographer currently imprisoned in Morocco has said he couldn’t tell if Cantlie was “coerced or threatened” and that he appeared to be “walking freely,” but other ISIS hostages who encountered Cantlie have described him as a prisoner working under duress.