In one of the Islamic State's most bizarre propaganda videos yet, British hostage John Cantlie acts as a smiling tour guide through the "heartland" of Mosul, Iraq.
Cantlie — a photojournalist captured in Syria in 2012 along with American journalist James Foley, who was executed last August — greets the audience from a mountaintop overlooking Iraq's second-largest city, which was taken by militants during their advance over vast areas of land in Iraq and Syria last summer. He then descends to shop in the "bustling" market, visits a children's hospital, and even rides a cop's motorcycle.
"It's an absolute heartland for the caliphate and home to 2 million people from every walk of life," Cantlie says of Mosul from the mountaintop. "Mosul is an ancient trading city and a Sunni province, as much of Iraq used to be before American-led invasions and pro-Iranian governments changed the political map."
The TV-style video, produced by the militants' media arm, Alhayat Media Center, is the eighth propaganda film featuring the 43-year-old captive. Cantlie has previously appeared in several scripted Islamic State propaganda films, but none delivered with the same casual dynamism he exhibits in the latest video.
In the Mosul video, Cantlie appears to have memorized a lengthy script praising local life. He strolls through the local market to show that "people are going about their business," not suffering, as Western media portrays. He points to neon store signs to demonstrate that people indeed have constant electricity, not a mere two hours of power each day, as news reports have said.
He then visits a children's hospital to show that "despite the bombs… the Islamic State can handle it. The Islamic State prevails."
Cantlie even reads aloud Wikipedia and CNN articles about people fearing the Mosul police force, which is rife with corruption, and then counters such allegations with his own ride-along with a cop through the city on a motorcycle.
"It seems that the police are almost redundant despite their very firm presence," he says as he whizzes down the road on the motorbike. "There's really very little crime being committed from what I can see — just people going about their business."
The only crack in Cantlie's facade seems to appear when he spots a US-led coalition drone in the sky high above. "Drone, down here! Over here!" He shouts in an over-the-top fashion, similar to his delivery in previous scripted videos. "Trying to rescue me again? Do something. Useless, absolutely useless."
New Islamic State video shows hostage John Cantlie allegedly reporting from the ground in Kobane. Read more here.
Cantlie is among an unknown number of Western captives being held by the same militant group that executed Foley, American journalist Steven Sotloff, and three foreign aid workers: Brits David Haines and Alan Henning, and American Peter Kassig.
In one of the Islamic State's other propaganda videos released last October, Cantlie claims that militants have treated hostages "well," but freed cellmates detailed a different story, saying the insurgents have chained, tortured, starved and waterboarded the hostages, according to a New York Times report.
At the end of Cantlie's performance in the latest video, he points to Mosul residents watching yet another propaganda video he narrated from the Syrian city of Kobane in October, 2014.
"It just shows how much territory the Islamic State are controlling," he concludes.
A British Foreign Office spokeswoman told the Guardian: "We are aware of the release of another video and are studying its contents."
The Islamic State treats hostages 'well,' according to new propaganda video. Read more here.
Follow Meredith Hoffman on Twitter: @merhoffman