A visibly gaunt British national and self-proclaimed Islamic State hostage, John Cantlie, appeared in the latest ISIS news propaganda video Wednesday, this time to admonish a U.S. military strike on a university and bank in the ISIS-controlled city of Mosul.
It was at least the sixth video that featured Cantlie. With each release over the past two years, Cantlie has looked increasingly thinner and paler, and yet his appearance Wednesday shocked some. Dated July 12, Cantlie, 45, was wearing a grey shirt far too big for him with a microphone clipped on near the collar. His brown hair was unkempt and longer than it had been in previous videos, and his voice was slightly weaker than it had been in the past.
The sight of Cantlie in Wednesday’s video disturbed those who have long followed his plight. Such videos in the past have at least confirmed he was still alive, even as it was clear, at times, that Cantlie was forcibly serving as an ISIS news broadcaster. Wednesday’s video renewed questions about his health.
Throughout the three-minute video, as Cantlie spoke, there was the constant buzzing of the drone flying above him. He was “reporting” on a U.S.-led coalition strike that destroyed Mosul University three months ago.
“Hello, I'm John Cantlie. And today we are at Mosul University… or at least what’s left of Mosul University,” he began.
A minute later, a drone flew over part of the rubble where the university once stood. Cantlie described the university as one of Iraq’s “finest” and asks, “Why did the coalition decide to destroy the university?”
He went on to say: “If it was a military point or a weapons cache or a training ground for the mujahedeen [holy fighters] perhaps you could understand—but it was simply Mosul's and Iraq's finest university, now reduced to a huge pile of rubble.”
It appeared Cantlie was referring to U.S.-led coalition strikes targeting Mosul University around March 19th because, according to U.S. military officials, the school was an ISIS headquarters. According to one local official, the strike killed at least 17 ISIS fighters.
According local reports, Mosul University stopped educating students and became as ISIS headquarters shortly after ISIS took control of the city in June of 2014.
Cantlie then appeared on a busy Mosul street, where scores stood behind him watching the filming as he reported that the coalition wantonly struck a bank that served citizens there. He made references to shoppers buying for the end of the holy month of Ramadan, in which Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. Ramadan ended around July 5th, one week before the video is dated.
It has never been clear why Cantlie has been spared to be used this way. In other instances, ISIS has either killed or released hostages, in some cases, reportedly for ransom. In all, Cantlie has appeared in nine videos, which began as a series of interviews of him before evolving into ISIS turning him in its video broadcaster.
He also has “written” news stories for ISIS’s Dabiq magazine, which, like the videos, criticize the war.
Cantlie, a freelance journalist, and American reporter James Foley were kidnapped in November 2012 in northern Syria and were eventually sold to ISIS. The terror group beheaded Foley and released a video in August 2014 showing his murder.