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Syria air strikes: British hostage John Cantlie delivers scripted condemnation of US in new Isis video

The photographer was kidnapped in November 2012 along with his close friend James Foley, the American who was beheaded on film by militants last month

Tom Harper
Wednesday 24 September 2014 00:37 BST
John Cantlie appeared in a second Isis film yesterday
John Cantlie appeared in a second Isis film yesterday (EPA)

Islamic extremists released a new propaganda video featuring British hostage John Cantlie today, hours after a coalition of countries headed by the United States launched air strikes inside Syria.

The photographer, who has been a prisoner of Islamic State (Isis) for 22 months, was paraded in a display of defiance against America and its Middle Eastern allies, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Bahrain.

Dressed in an orange jumpsuit and reading calmly from behind a desk, the 43-year-old likened the US-led military campaign against his captors to the Vietnam war. “Western governments are hastily marching towards all-out war in Iraq and Syria without paying any heed to the lessons of the recent past,” he read.

“Not since Vietnam have we witnessed such a potential mess in the making.”

The clip, which lasts for almost six minutes, was broadcast online less than a week after Mr Cantlie’s first appearance on screen, where he made it clear he was making the films under duress.

The photographer, who has worked for The Sunday Times, The Sun and The Sunday Telegraph, was kidnapped in November 2012 along with his close friend James Foley, an American photographer who was beheaded on film by Isis militants last month.

In the video posted today, Mr Cantlie referenced the UK’s policy of refusing to pay hostage ransoms, describing himself as “the British citizen abandoned my government, and long-term prisoner of the Islamic State”.

He started and ended his six-minute monologue by quoting Michael Scheuer, the former CIA officer who has criticised American intervention in Iraq: “Eighteen years into our war with the Islamists, the US government has given no public sign that it has the slightest awareness of what its enemies are fighting for.”

Mr Cantlie added: “Senior US politicians seemed content to call the Islamic State nasty names; ‘awful’, ‘vile’, ‘a cancer’, ‘an insult to our values’. But such petty insults don’t really do much harm to the most powerful jihadi movement seen in recent history.

“The President once called George Bush’s conflict a dumb war and couldn’t wait to distance America from it when he came into power. Now he’s been inexorably drawn back in, but he’s at pains to point out that this is not the equivalent of the Iraq war. Indeed it’s far more complicated and prone to failure.”

Mr Cantlie was previously abducted in Syria earlier in 2012 but was freed by a rival group after seven days.

Today, he delivered passages from a script in which his Isis captors praise themselves as “the largest, most popular and best-armed” Islamist fighting force since Russia invaded Afghanistan in 1979.

At the conclusion of the film, Mr Cantlie warned America and its allies against putting troops on the ground. He said: “Current estimates of 15,000 troops needed to fight the Islamic state are laughably low. The [Islamic] State has more mujahideen than this. And this is not some undisciplined outfit with a few Kalashnikovs.”

Elizabeth McClelland, a forensic speech analyst, said his speaking style in the new video differs from the first. “Whereas in the first video, he sounded like an actor who has been asked to promote a product, in the more recent one, he is speaking in the style of a TV presenter,” she said.

Isis extremists rapidly took control of swathes of Iraq and Syria over the summer. They murdered David Haines, a British aid worker, and posted a video of his death online earlier this month. The militants are also threatening to kill Alan Henning, 47, a taxi driver from Eccles, Salford, who missed last Christmas with his family to deliver medical supplies to Muslims in Syria.

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