The use of the British hostage John Cantlie in a propaganda video without the threat of immediate violence against him shows that Isis is deeply apprehensive about impending Western military strikes, according to more moderate rebel groups in Syria.
Until now their Western hostages had been produced for the camera to make statements, before being immediately beheaded. The victims included Jim Foley, an American photojournalist with whom Cantlie was travelling when they were captured in Syria’s Idlib province. There remains deep apprehension about the fate of Alan Henning, another Briton, who Isis has threatened to kill.
Cantlie, in a video released on Thursday, charged that he had been abandoned by the British Government and would present a series of films telling the “truth” about the jihadists and how Britain and the US were being dragged into another “unwinnable” Middle-East war by their governments
Wassim Abu Murad, who was a mid-level commander with the Ghuraba al-Sham battalion of the Free Syrian Army, maintained that the use of Cantlie was an attempt to sway American and British public opinion against the military mission. “Isis is bringing the Americans into Syria and their bombing will end up by helping Basher [al-Assad] in the long run,” Mr Murad said. “What have they achieved by killing journalists?
The rise of Isis has been at the expense of other rebel groups. However, some of the rebels, supposedly part of a coalition sponsored by the Western powers, have sold hostages to Isis, which has continued to accumulate huge wealth.
“It is mainly criminal gangs which supplied Isis with foreign prisoners” said Suleiman al-Nasri, another rebel fighter, currently in Turkey. “But it is true that some of the smaller khatibas [battalions] may have also done so.
“No one expected that Isis would start killing foreigners,” Mr al-Nasri said. “Everyone thought they would be used to exchange for prisoners and maybe some for money. This is now a very difficult situation.”
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