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ISIS released a propaganda video showing a captive British photojournalist promising to illuminate “the truth” behind the militants’ network and criticizing his government and the United States.
John Cantlie, a photographer who worked for Britain’s Sunday Times, was taken captive by militants in Syria alongside GlobalPost’s James Foley nearly two years ago. Foley was beheaded in a video released by ISIS — the first of three Westerners whose executions were carried out and broadcast by the militants through propaganda videos in what ISIS said was retaliation for Iraq airstrikes. ISIS also has threatened the life of another British hostage, Alan Henning.
In a video released Thursday, Cantlie is shown in an orange jumpsuit — the same style Foley and subsequent hostages wore in their beheading videos. The similarities end there, with the video, “Lend Me Your Ears,” taking on the appearance of a news program. Speaking from behind a table in a darkened room, Cantlie promises that more “programs” are coming.
"Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, 'He's only doing this because he's a prisoner. He's got a gun at his head and he's being forced to do this.' Right?" he says calmly, speaking directly to the camera, hands clasped before him. "Well, it's true. I am a prisoner. That I cannot deny. But seeing as I've been abandoned by my government and my fate now lies in the hands of the Islamic State, I have nothing to lose."
Referring to the group’s self-proclaimed name — the Islamic State — Cantlie goes on to say that “over the next few programs” he will “show you the truth as the Western media tries to drag the public back to the abyss of another war with the Islamic State.’
Cantlie, a seasoned conflict photographer, was previously held captive by Syrian militants for a week in July 2012. In an account of his captivity published in The Sunday Times newspaper, Cantlie said he and fellow hostage Jeroen Oerlemans were repeatedly told to prepare for death and would hear “the worst noise we will hear in our lives: the sharpening of knives for a beheading."
"I ended up running for my life, barefoot and handcuffed, while British jihadists — young men with south London accents — shot to kill," Cantlie wrote of the pair's attempted escape early in their captivity.
After he returned home, Cantlie made his way back to Syria. In the new video, he said he was taken captive — again — in November 2012. Unlike several Europeans, who are believed to have been freed after ransoms were paid, he remains in the militants’ hands.
Cantlie was due to testify in the case of a British doctor allegedly involved in the kidnapping, but the trial fell apart because two key witnesses were unable to appear in court. NBC News can now report that Cantlie was one of those witnesses, and he could not appear because he was being held hostage in Syria.
- With Emmanuelle Saliba