Hostage in video claims Syrian city of Kobani is under ISIS control
ISIS has released a new video of British hostage John Cantlie, this time showing him in the Syrian border city of Kobani.
In a segment that lasts for more than five minutes, Cantlie argues that — unlike Western media accounts of recent days — Kobani is mostly under control of the terror group, which calls itself the Islamic state.
He claims that ISIS fighters are mopping up, and that the all-out battle for the city is over. Kurdish forces in Syria have said the fight is far from finished, and that Iraqi Kurdish forces will soon be joining them.
Kurdish forces and ISIS militants have been clashing in the key border city for more than a month. On Sunday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 800 people have been killed there since the fighting started.
The video posted online Monday is the latest ISIS has released of Cantlie, who’s been held hostage for nearly two years.
The British photojournalist, who also wrote several articles for major British newspapers, was kidnapped in November 2012 along with American journalist James Foley. In the first video of him released by the group last month, Cantlie made clear that he was forced to share a message from ISIS.
The video released Monday portrays Cantlie as a reporter in the field describing Kobani. The hostage, dressed in black, appears close enough to the border to see Turkish flags in the background.
“It seemed almost like a standup that a CNN correspondent would do in a foreign city,” Peter Bergen, CNN national security analyst, said. “It was designed to show that he’s relaxed, that what he’s saying is accurate. But clearly he’s under duress.”
Philip Mudd, a former CIA counterterrorism official, described the video as “purely a propaganda play.” Even though it purports to show the strength of ISIS, Mudd said the video actually reveals weakness.
“They’re watching the same media we watch and seeing that their push for Kobani is not going very well. This is a message to respond to what they view as Western media portraying them as losing in Kobani,” he said. “They think they need to respond.”
The video also includes images of the heavily damaged city, filmed by what a caption says is an ISIS drone.
Based on references Cantlie makes in the video, CNN’s Nick Paton Walsh says it appears to have been filmed about a week ago.
In the video, Cantlie describes weapons from a U.S. airdrop that he says made their way into the hands of ISIS — a claim the group also made last week. The airdrops were sent to help Kurdish forces fighting to defend the city.
A U.S. official said last week that one of 28 bundles dropped in and around Kobani drifted away from its target zone. The U.S. military said it went back and blasted it.