John Cantlie: Isis uses kidnapped British journalist to present its case in new video

Missing for two years, John Cantlie resurfaces in what may be a change of tactics for Islamic State

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The Independent Online

A British newspaper photographer has become the latest kidnap victim to appear on an Isis propaganda video, in which he says he is making a desperate attempt to save his own life.

John Cantlie, held by Isis for almost two years since he disappeared while covering the conflict in Syria in 2012, is the third Briton confirmed to be held by the group.

But the latest video is in stark contrast to previous Isis films depicting Western hostages being beheaded.

The film was taken indoors, with Mr Cantlie sitting behind a table against a black background wearing the distinctive orange top seen in other videos. No explicit threats are made to his life and no-one else is present in the video.

Terrorism experts said its release marked a distinct shift in Isis propaganda and was almost certainly made in response to the condemnation from Muslims across the world to the filmed murders of James Foley, Steven Sotloff and David Haines.


The former security minister Baroness Pauline Neville-Jones said the film showed Isis militants were now aware of the “extraordinarily adverse publicity” which they deserved to get over their “extremely brutal murders”.

Mustafa Field, the director of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board who this week helped co-ordinate a letter to The Independent from 100 leading British Muslims calling for the release of David Henning, said the group were “getting desperate”.

In the clip, lasting three minute, 20 seconds and entitled “Lend Me Your Ears”, which was quickly taken down from YouTube, Mr Cantlie calmly explains his predicament before revealing that he has “made” a number of propaganda films on behalf of the militants.

“It’s true I am a prisoner,” he says. “But seeing as I have been abandoned by my Government, and my fate now lies in the hands of the Islamic State, I have nothing to lose.

“Maybe I will live and maybe I will die. But I want to take this opportunity to convey some facts that you can verify. Facts that if you contemplate might help preserving lives.”

Mr Cantlie then says he will “show the truth as the Western media tries to drag the public back to the abyss of another war with the Islamic State”. He adds: “There are two sides to every story.

“I’ll show you the truth behind what happened when many European citizens were imprisoned and later released by the Islamic State and how the British and American Governments thought they could do it differently to every other European country.

“They negotiated with the Islamic State and got their people home while the British and Americans were left behind.”

However, he does not point out that these countries paid significant amounts of money in ransoms to Isis and makes no mention of the murders of three of his fellow hostages.

Isis fighters celebrate in Syria’s northern Raqqa province in June after capturing territory in neighbouring (Reuters)

The Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, said he would “look very closely” at any material released on the internet. He said videos such as these could be “very distressing” to the families of the individuals involved.

Baroness Neville-Jones said the film showed Isis militants were changing their social-media tactics.

“I think they may be seeking to drum up support among those to whom they wish to appeal by rehearsing the history of injustice which the West inflicts on people like themselves,” she said.

“It sounds an entirely  cynical exploit on their part obviously aimed at a certain audience.”

Elizabeth McClelland, a forensic voice and speech analyst, said that Mr Cantlie was reading from a script, pointing to the lack of pauses, repetition and hesitation.

“The speech and language use exhibited features that strongly indicated he was ‘acting’,” she said, adding that  “his facial expression indicated he wished to disassociate himself from the words he was speaking”.