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Islamic State Releases Third Video of British Hostage John Cantlie

Kidnapped journalist delivers IS response to Obama's strategy in Iraq and Syria, claiming group is looking forward to meeting 'his under-construction army.'

by Hannah Strange
Sep 30 2014, 12:10pm

Images via YouTube

The Islamic State has released a third video of the kidnapped British journalist John Cantlie, reciting a scripted message by the militant group pouring scorn on US military actions in Iraq and Syria.

Cantlie, who was taken hostage two years ago, appears as he does in the first two videos sitting at a desk against a black backdrop wearing an orange, Guantanamo-style jumpsuit.

The journalist is alone with no outward signs of coercion in the shot but made clear in the first video that he was speaking as a prisoner whose life was under threat. As in the first two videos, he infuses his delivery with a sceptical tone as he gives the group's response to Barack Obama's address on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks outlining Washington's plans against IS.

"There were no big surprises" in Obama's speech, the message said, mocking the strategy of conducting airstrikes while relying on local forces for the ground offensive.

"Now, when exactly Gulf War Three will start, and how long it will take, isn't covered," Cantlie said, after repeating an excerpt from Obama's address. "US advisers working with the Iraqi army as consistently grim, while arming and training an effective national guard of supposedly Sunni fighters in western Iraq will take months to achieve."

The message dismissed the Free Syrian Army — the moderate rebels backed by the West against the Assad regime and the Islamist extremists - as a "undisciplined, corrupt and largely ineffective fighting force." It claimed that giving them weapons and funding was "a completely pointless exercise", alleging that the FSA sold much of this hardware to arms dealers and smugglers with it eventually ending up in the hands of IS.

Taking and holding territory needed disciplined troops on the ground, Cantlie said, adding:"It's hard to see how this hotch potch army with a long history of under-performing is going to be any form of credible infantry."

The message also attempted to challenge Obama's insistence that the group was not Islamic and that its actions, particularly the killing of innocents, were not condoned by any religion. It said the Islamic State considered Shiites as not "Muslims at all, in fact according to them the Shia are consideredworse than Americans, as they are apostates claiming to be Muslims while worshipping the dead."

Rejecting the speech as "full of hyperbole" and "prideful chest-beating", Cantlie's message concluded: "It was all disappointingly predictable; America is good, the Islamic State is bad; and they will be defeated using aircraft and a motley collection of fighters on the ground. For their part the Islamic State say they welcome meeting Obama's under-construction army."

Cantlie was kidnapped in late 2012, the second time he had been taken hostage in Syria. On the first occasion, in July 2012, he escaped after a week with the aid of the Free Syrian Army.

Following the release of the third Cantlie video on Monday night, a British Muslim charity, JIMAS, responded with its own video calling for his release.

"John Cantlie, the photojournalist whom you have captured, he was merely doing a job to reveal to us what is happening in Syria. Don't use him as a propaganda tool and abuse (him), because he was merely telling us about the suffering of the people there. Either let him go, and carry on with his job, or come home, but please let him go nevertheless and show mercy," urged Abu Muntasir, the charity's chief executive. 

The Islamic State is known to have scores, perhaps hundreds, of foreign and local hostages, though the exact numbers are unclear as many of the cases are kept secret while efforts are made to secure their freedom.

Since August, the group has posted three online videos showing the executions by beheading of three Western hostages — the US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and the British aid worker David Haines. In the video of Haines's killing, Alan Henning, a British taxi driver kidnapped while on an aid mission to Syria, was also threatened with death.

The executioner in all three videos speaks with a British accent and is believed to have been identified by both the US Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and British security services. His name has not been revealed, though British press reports have consistently indicated that the primary suspect is a little-known London rapper, Abdel Bary.

The videos showing Cantlie are shot in a style previously unseen in the group's online postings, attempting to posit him as a presenter of a political series.  "Join me again, for the next program," he says as the film ends.

The United States is leading a coalition of Arab and European partners in conducting airstrikes against the group which has declared an Islamic caliphate across large swathes of Iraq and Syria. Britain joined the intervention on the weekend but is restricting its participation to Iraq, and Royal Air Force jets flying out of Cyprus are thought to have so far only flown reconnaissance missions, without engaging in combat.

The US, Britain and France — which is also mourning the death of a hostage, Hervé Gourdel, at the hands of an Algerian militant group supportive of IS last week — have all vowed that the killings will not deter them in their mission against the Islamic State. 

Follow Hannah Strange on Twitter: @hannahkstrange

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