In a new video published today, British photojournalist John Cantlie, who is now being held hostage by the Islamic State after being kidnapped in Syria in 2012, appears to be reporting from the city of Kobane on the Syrian-Turkish border, which has been the stage to an ongoing battle between the militants and Kurdish forces.
The sleek video, which features aerial views of the war-ravaged city it claims are filmed from a drone, is the latest featuring the hostage, who had proclaimed in a recent propaganda video that the Islamic State treats its captives "well" and that US and UK governments had abandoned their citizens — four of whom have been beheaded by the militants in televised executions.
In the new, five-minute video — called "Inside Ayn Al Islam," the name given by the Islamic State to Kobane — Cantlie claims to be standing in an area known as a Kurdish "safe zone, which is now controlled entirely by the Islamic State," mimicking the style of a traditional newscast.
Cantlie says the mujaheeden have "pushed deep" into the city and control its eastern and southern sectors, despite US strikes attempting to stop their advance.
"The Western media — and I can't see any of their journalists here in the city of Kobane — have been saying recently that the Islamic State are on the retreat," Cantlie says in a seemingly relaxed tone, citing recent news reports and Western officials' statements made as late as October 20. "Good old John Kerry doesn't seem to think the mujahdeen are retreating. He called Kobane a 'horrible example of the unwillingness of people to help those fighting the Islamic State.'"
VICE News could not independently verify that Cantlie is where he claims to be, and the closeup shots on his face make it difficult to say if he is indeed in the same location as the longer shots. He claims to see the Turkish flag behind him, over the border, but no sign of Kurdish forces, while the mujahedeen are going door to door.
Cantlie appears to be in good health in the video. But a recent New York Times investigation into the conditions in which he and other foreign hostages have been held revealed that the captives were frequently kept chained, starved, beaten, and tortured — including with water boarding and mock executions.
The British photojournalist is one of at least three Western captives known to be in the hands of the same militants who executed James Foley, Steven Sotloff, David Haines, and Alan Henning. The militants are also holding an unidentified female US aid worker and Peter Kassig, a US aid worker they have threatened to execute next.
Cantlie and Foley were abducted together in November 2012, while on their way to Turkey after reporting on Syria's conflict.
Follow Alice Speri on Twitter: @alicesperi