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British Hostage John Cantlie 'Reports' from Aleppo In Latest Islamic State Propaganda Video

The footage, filmed in Aleppo, Syria, is purportedly the final film in a series featuring the British photojournalist.

by Sally Hayden
Feb 9 2015, 7:02pm

Screenshot via Al Hayat Media Center

British Hostage John Cantlie has appeared in a new Islamic State propaganda video released Monday. It is stated as the "the last film" in a series featuring the photojournalist.

The footage — branded with the logo of the militant group's media arm, Alhayat Media Center — appears to show Cantlie walking around ruins and interviewing locals in the northwestern Syrian city of Aleppo.

During the 12-minute long video titled "From Inside Halab," referring to an ancient name for Aleppo, Cantlie visits several locations in Islamic State-held areas of the city, including a marketplace, a Sharia court, and a media distribution center.

Hostage John Cantlie takes on Mosul in eighth Islamic State propaganda video. Read more here.

While at the market, Cantlie, who has appeared in a number of increasingly elaborate militant propaganda films with scripted lines, accuses the US of colluding with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, suggesting that a US drone flying overhead was supplying Assad with the intelligence for airstrikes on the city.

Later in the film, Cantlie sits among several men in a local court waiting room. Addressing the camera, he says: "It is the Sharia law that rules here."

"For example, if you are convicted of robbery with the correct number of witnesses, you have your hand cut off," Cantlie says. "Sounds harsh, but you're not going to commit the same crime again and it will dissuade others from doing the same."

The video is heavily produced, and includes shots of the surrounding countryside. Aleppo or Halab "remains a place of serenity and serene beauty," Cantlie says.

"It's the West who are acting aggressively," he adds. "The people of Halab just want to get on with their lives in peace and that is more possible now since the Islamic State took over."

New Islamic State video shows hostage John Cantlie allegedly reporting from the ground in Kobane. Read more here.

Charlie Winter of London-based anti-extremism think tank the Quilliam Foundation told VICE News he thought it unlikely that this would be the last video the Islamic State released that featured Cantlie, who was kidnapped in Syria in 2012.

"It's more of the usual really," Winter said of the latest propaganda film. "Using John Cantlie to taunt the West and show that they've got control over him, completely subordinated him."

"They're using him in a more stylized way now. They're trying to exaggerate the stability of their position in northern Syria," Winter added, noting that this is far from the reality of the situation.

At the end of the video, a French Islamic State fighter appears and verbally encourages French Muslims to launch individual attacks against France. The man says in the film that he had heard about the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris a few days earlier.

"Every time we hear about one or more brothers defending their religion in the West, we only feel delighted," the fighter tells Cantlie, who appears to nod along.

"Kill them with knives," the militant adds. "At the very least, strike them in the face."

Winter noted that this is one of a number of videos released this month alone that has issued similar calls for French Muslims to join the jihad.

"The fixation on France is significant," he said.

Late last year, the French government revealed that twice as many French nationals had joined or were planning to join the Islamic State in 2014, marking a 116 percent increase from the previous year. France is home to Europe's largest Muslim population.

Winter said that while the video was still "uncomfortable viewing," the propaganda films may be losing their edge.

"Week in week out, the Islamic State do all they can to keep themselves in the headlines — this is just an extension of that," he said. "In terms of recruitment value, it's got the usual message of defiance and that, but on its own it's not going to convince anyone to go and join Syria or Iraq."

Islamic State changes tactics in new hostage video. Read more here.

Follow Sally Hayden on Twitter: @sallyhayd