The Islamic State group released a video Monday showing a British hostage apparently in Kobane, in a bid to disprove that it was losing the battle for the disputed Syrian border town. The video, the latest in a series featuring 43-year-old kidnapped reporter John Cantlie, shows him in a war-damaged town, talking to the camera and rejecting US claims that the “mujahedeen” are in retreat.
There is no indication in the video of when it was shot, but Cantlie refers to a news report that was broadcast by the BBC on October 17 and to remarks made by a US military spokesman on October 16. Views of Kobane in the video include shots of a row of grain silos topped by a Turkish flag that correspond to some shown in maps of the area immediately on the other side of the frontier.
Aerial footage of the town, which the IS group has stamped as having been shot by a “Drone of the Islamic State Army,” shows a wrecked city whose street layout corresponds to that of pre-war satellite maps of Kobane. Cantlie dismisses reports that IS forces have failed in their assault on the Kurdish town, declaring that they hold the east and south of Kobane and that their victory there is only a matter of time.
Since October 17, the earliest date the video could have been made, fighting has continued in Kobane, which Kurdish fighters backed by US and Arab air strikes are defending against the jihadists. On Monday, US Central Command reported that airstrikes by warplanes of the US-led coalition fighting the IS group had destroyed IS vehicles and an “occupied building” in the town.
In their latest statements on the battle, US officials have said their strikes have “slowed IS advances” but that the situation is fluid. Cantlie was kidnapped in Syria in November 2012 while covering the civil war there. Four hostages — two Americans and two Britons — have been executed by IS militants.
He has appeared in a series of slickly produced propaganda videos apparently designed to influence media coverage of the war and to counter US and British claims. Previous footage has shown him behind a desk in orange prison garb addressing a fixed camera, admitting that he is a hostage and could be killed by IS at any time, but Monday’s clip shows him outdoors and dressed in a black shirt. SAPA