British journalist John Cantlie has appeared in a new Islamic State militant group (ISIS) propaganda video, the twelfth release that features the hostage.
The three-minute video shows 45-year-old Cantlie with longer hair and a gaunt appearance in front of Mosul University in Iraq’s second-largest city, which the radical Islamist group overran in June 2014 before the creation of its self-proclaimed caliphate. The group’s semi-official news agency Amaq released the footage.
If you look behind me you’ll see it’s been pretty much smashed to pieces. You have to ask yourself: ”Why did the Coalition decide to destroy the university?” he asks in the video.
“Mosul University was the finest and biggest university in all of Iraq. Now if it was a military hub or if it was a weapons cache or if it was being used as a training ground by the mujahideen, perhaps you could understand,” he continues. “But it was simply Mosul’s and in fact Iraq’s finest university, now reduced to a huge pile of rubble.”
The U.S.-led coalition bombed the facility in March as the group was using it as a headquarters, as seen in a coalition video release. It is likely that Cantlie was speaking under duress, under the orders of the radical Islamist group, as it has executed a number of other abducted foreign hostages.
Near the eastern Syrian city of Raqqa, which serves as the group’s de-facto capital, Mohamed Emwazi, ISIS’ former executioner killed in a drone attack—otherwise known as ‘Jihadi John’—beheaded U.S. journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, as well as British aid workers Alan Henning and David Haines from August 2014 onwards.
Cantlie, who worked for Britain’s Daily Telegraph before his capture, had not appeared in an ISIS propaganda video since March and fears had started to grow for his safety, but the video appears to confirm that he was alive as recently as the Islamic holy festival of Ramadan.
He notes that the Eid al-Fitr holiday, celebrated at the end of Ramadan, is approaching, and in one of the final scenes of the video is shown in central Mosul while residents purportedly shop for the holiday. This will increase hopes that he is still alive in the city. Mosul is ISIS’s grand prize and Kurdish, Iraqi and U.S.-led coalition forces are putting finishing touches to a plan to encircle the city before launching a large-scale operation.