|Foreigners Held or Missing in Syria|
|[AnNahar] The capture by Iraqi and Syrian forces of the group's last bastions failed to clarify the fate of several foreign hostages thought to have been kidnapped by jihadists.|
The Syrian city of Raqa, which U.S.-backed forces retook in mid-October, was the group's inner sanctum and where many of the kidnapped foreigners were sequestered.
Following is what we know about John Cantlie, a British journalist who was kidnapped by IS five years ago on Wednesday, and about other foreigners still believed held or missing in Syria:
British journalist John Cantlie was detained by the Islamic State group on November 22, 2012.
He was kidnapped along with U.S. James Foley, who became the first of a string of foreign hostages to be slain in gruesome propaganda videos.
Cantlie however appeared in several subsequent videos released by IS in which he delivered jihadist propaganda to the camera in the style of a news report.
His last appearance was during the battle for late last year. He looked very gaunt and tired.
His current whereabouts are unknown and Cantlie's family have chosen discretion as a way of increasing his chances of survival.
GRIGORY TSURKANU AND ROMAN ZABOLOTNY
The pair, believed to be Russians, were captured in September or early October in Deir Ezzor province in eastern Syria.
Moscow never confirmed the identity of the two men, who appeared in an IS propaganda video. A Cossack group identified them as two veterans from southern Russia in their late thirties.
Some Russian media reports said they were mercenaries for a shadowy outfit called Wagner which has been sending ex-servicemen to fight alongside Syrian regime forces.
A Russian newspaper said they were executed but their deaths were never confirmed.
SKY NEWS TEAM
Mauritanian national Ishak Moctar and Lebanese national Samir Kassab went missing on October 15, 2013, along with their Syrian driver, near the northern city of Aleppo.
They were believed held by IS but their fate was never confirmed and they are still considered missing. The pair were believed to still be alive in 2016 and held in Raqa.
Japanese journalist Jumpei Yasuda is thought to have been by the Front jihadist group, a former al-Qaeda affiliate, in northern Syria in 2015.
Tokyo describes him as missing. A picture of him holding a piece of paper that read "Help me, this is the last chance" was released in mid-2016 and deemed authentic.
The 36-year-old American journalist was kidnapped in Syria in August 2012 by unidentified after reporting south of Damascus.
His kidnapping was never claimed by any organization but his family says it has reason to believe the Texan is still alive.
The Jesuit priest known to most as Father Paolo was a well-known figure in Syria, where he lived for years in the 6th century Deir Mar Musa monastery that he renovated, north of Damascus.
He was exiled from Syria in 2012 for meeting with members of the opposition to 's regime and kidnapped by the Islamic State group near Raqa when he returned the following year.
He was reported to have been executed and his body dumped in a crevice soon after but his death was never confirmed by any party.
|British Captive Appears in New IS Video|
|[AnNahar] British journalist John Cantlie, who is being held prisoner by the group, appeared in a new video released Saturday supposedly filmed in the jihadists' Iraqi stronghold of In the latest installment in a series of propaganda videos released by IS, Cantlie speaks to the camera in the style of a news report.|
It is unclear when it was shot, but Cantlie last appeared in an IS video in early 2015.
In Saturday's video, a gaunt-looking Cantlie says he is in Mosul, IS' main city in northern Iraq.
Dressed in black and squinting in the sunshine, he is seen standing in front of a metal shack he describes as a media kiosk that distributes IS pamphlets, which was destroyed in an air strike by a U.S.-led coalition.
Speaking in English with Arabic subtitles, as in previous clips of the same style, Cantlie criticizes and derides the U.S.-led campaign launched in 2014 against IS.
He was kidnapped along with journalist James Foley in November 2012 in Syria while covering the war there.
Foley then became the first of several hostages to be slain by the jihadists.
Media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders has condemned IS for its "cowardly" use of a hostage in a forced role to push the jihadists' propaganda.
|ISIS magazine preparing young Muslims for an apocalypse|
|[Ynet] The young people trying to cross over to Syria and Iraq from don't need Amazon in order to read Dabiq. Its latest issue offers them free health services at an international level, higher education programs, a great salary and an 'excellent' life at the prophet's expense.|
Online sales giant Amazon experienced an embarrassing mishap: Users were invited to purchase the glossy copies of the Dabiq magazine.
It's safe to assume that Amazon's managers had no idea what black hole they were getting themselves into when they put Dabiq on sale for $12 a copy in its English, German, French and Spanish versions. Over the weekend, following a series of complaints, Amazon removed the problematic item without any explanation.
Dabiq is a town in northern Syria. The tradition adopted by the Islamic terror organizations insists that this is where the apocalypse will take place and that this will be the last stop before the caliphate. This is where the name of the magazine published by the comes from. Nine issues have been published so far, each dedicated to a an issue aimed at serving the murderers in the name of Islam.
Here are a few facts: Although it is translated into five languages, this magazine is not directed at the Western reader. Its editors did not sit down in front of their computers in order to improve their image. Dabiq is for propaganda "among the hesitant" and for recruiting purposes in the Persian Gulf, in North Africa and in the exile communities in the United States and Europe.
The production and writing team are located far from the ISIS fighting zones. They sit comfortably in front of the computer screens, know how to communicate without exposing themselves, order articles, receive reports from the ground, and publish pictures in expensive professional printing, because there are no budget restrictions.
In the two latest issues, thousands of words were dedicated to the case of women who have been taken captive by ISIS and turned into the sex slaves of the "holy war fighters." Are these miserable women s, or could they have saved themselves had they converted to the strict Islam?
ISIS has intentionally chosen women writers. With the help of Koran verses, they are attempting to prove that the hundreds of women kidnapped from their homes received the "appropriate punishment" after their spouses refused to move to "the right Islam."
A woman is merely an object, we learn from Dabiq, and her job is to produce the next generation of fighters and preserve the values of the "right" family. If it turns out that her conduct is "wrong," she will be abandoned, and it will be recommended to sell her to slavery, turn her into a "sex toy," and maybe even get rid of her when her price in the market drops below the value of the Iraqi dinar.
And speaking of the dinar, US First Lady Michelle Obama has received a burning insult from the Dabiq editors, who will agree to pay only one third of a dinar for her in the best-case scenario, and "even that is too much."
And there is the article of John Cantlie, the British photographer who was kidnapped by ISIS, released and kidnapped again, and is being held as Dabiq's "correspondent on the ground." This is his temporary insurance policy. Unfortunately for him, the last issue no longer includes his article, which always ends with the words "despite being a prisoner, I've been shown respect and kindness, which I haven't seen from my own government."
Dabiq doesn't provide training on fighting methods or on beheading hostages. The shocking photos reveal elementary school children, who were invited to participate in a "punishment." They received guns and orders to shoot to death the heads of prisoners dressed in the orange uniform. The Dabiq editors didn't bother to remove the photos showing the frightened, shocked children. They will still learn, they explain.
And it appears to be working. Turkey has only now woken up to block young people landing in Istanbul from crossing over to Syria and Iraq. They don't need Amazon in order to read Dabiq. In the latest issue they are offered free health services at an international level, higher education programs, a great salary and an "excellent" life at the expense of "the prophet, who knows how to ward off the plots against him and who ordered the establishment of the Islamic caliphate's capital in Dabiq, ahead of taking over the heretics' world."
|ISIS’s futile quest for legitimacy|
|[DailyBeast] Ever since Islamic militants grabbed a swath of land across Syria and Iraq this summer, they have been presenting their caliphate as a valid, functioning state. This weekend, the Orwellian depiction of legitimacy became ever more surreal and desperate with the announcement of a new medical school in one city they control and the release of a propaganda video featuring a British hostage touring another town, claiming “this is a normal city going about its business.”|
In the Syrian city of Raqqa—the main stronghold of the self-styled Islamic State, formerly known as ISIS or ISIL—posters appeared over the weekend, according to local activists, which announced the opening of a school of medicine and invited applications from high-school graduates between the ages of 18 and 30. The medical school follows recent claims of plans to mint ISIS currency and the opening of a bank in the Iraqi city of Mosul—another was opened in the Syrian town of al-Bab several weeks ago. But locals there say any money deposited is thrown into an unlocked cupboard behind the tellers, hardly inspiring confidence.
Coinciding with the medical school announcement, the eighth propaganda video featuring British photojournalist John Cantlie, who has been held for more than two years by the militants, was released at the weekend, this time having him tour Mosul in the role of a TV correspondent. Using the city that was captured by ISIS in June as a backdrop, Cantlie disputes Western media reports that it is “in a state of near collapse” with a lack of food, water and working public institutions.
“The media likes to paint a picture of life in the Islamic State as depressed, people walking around as subjugated citizens in chains, beaten down by strict, totalitarian rule,” Cantlie says. But this picture of a “city living in fear as Western media would have you believe” is inaccurate, the captive photojournalist claims in the chilling video that has him looking less gaunt than in the previous seven propaganda videos in which he appears in as a narrator. Touring a souk and a hospital and riding on the back of a police motorcycle with a beaming jihadist, he declares, “Apart from some rather chilly but very sunny December weather, life here in Mosul is business as usual” and enjoyed by “people from every walk of life.”
The doublethink video smacks of something Winston Smith, the protagonist of George Orwell’s novel 1984. Just hours after his claims, ISIS released pictures showing the brutal executions of eight people, four of them Iraqi policemen, in Iraq’s Salaheddin province. In the Cantlie video there’s no mention of commonplace executions or the massacre by Islamic militants of more than 2,000 Shiite prisoners and soldiers shortly after Mosul was captured. Nor is there mention of the banishment of Christians on pain of death or even of the hundreds of women and girls from Iraq’s Yazidi religious minority being sold and abused as sex slaves— something boasted in Tweets and videos by Islamic State fighters. Tellingly, the eight-minute video has no interviews with locals testifying to how good life is under the jihadists—all has to be taken on trust from the captive narrator.
“Of all the Cantlie videos, this one is definitely the strangest,” tweeted Shiraz Maher, a senior fellow at the Institute Centre for the Study of Radicalization at King’s College London. “The healthier appearance and civilian clothing are very peculiar.”
The propaganda effort to portray the caliphate as a legitimate state seems increasingly frantic—an indication of ISIS weakness rather than confidence. Too much is being professed for the advance in the civil and administrative ambitions of the jihadist group. There are limits to the painting of banditry and extortion as the legitimate raising of taxes. And the narrative of state-making is undercut by the propaganda videos that are also posted of captured soldiers having their throats slit and of women accused of adultery being stoned.
For Sunni Muslims who are prepared to accept strict Sharia law and obey their new jihadist overlords, life may be more or less normal—you wear the niqab, you refrain from drinking alcohol or smoking, and you avoid being stoned, whipped or losing your head.
|New Islamic State Video Claims US Botched Rescue Raid|
|[Ynet] The John Cantlie. group has launched a new video with captured journalist |
In the video, titled Lend Me Your Ears Episode 6, Cantlie says the US botched a July raid to rescue him and fellow hostages and says he was "abandoned" by the British Government.
|Islamic State releases 2nd video with UK hostage|
|[IsraelTimes] The group on Monday released another video showing a British journalist who says he is a prisoner of the terrorist group.|
The video featuring John Cantlie, a photojournalist, is the second in a series IS calls, "Lend me your Ears."
The slick, five-and-a-half-minute video mocked US President 's September 10 speech laying out his strategy for countering IS.
"When exactly Gulf War III will start and how long it will take isn't covered," said Cantlie, clad in an orange jumpsuit and sitting in front of black background. "US advisors working with the Iraqi Army have described their performance as 'consistently grim.'"
"The are proven to be an undisciplined, corrupt, and largely ineffective fighting force...Giving the FSA 500 million [dollars] now is a completely pointless exercise," he continued. "Never mind the fact that the FSA sells the weapons the West gives them to arms dealers and smugglers, and much of it then ends up with the Islamic State."
UK journalist John Cantlie speaks in an IS video released Thursday, September 18, 2014. (screen capture: YouTube)
Cantlie also mocked Obama's language as "simplistic" and said that support in the US for his efforts against IS remains low. He also claimed that IS was not responsible for the slaughter of Christians and Yazidis in Iraq, and that it does not consider Shi'ites to be s.
"For their part, the Islamic State say they welcome meeting Obama's under-construction army, " he ended. "Join me again for the next program."
In the first video, released a week and a half before, Cantlie said he worked for publications including The Sunday Times, The Sun and The Sunday Telegraph and came to Syria in November 2012 where he was subsequently captured by the Islamic State group.
The group which now controls roughly a third of Syria and Iraq has beheaded two US journalists and a British aid worker, and has threatened to kill another British hostage.
The clips released by the Islamic State group's media arm, Al-Furqan, were different than previous videos.
Entitled "Lend me your ears," they are part of a series of lecture-like "programs" in which Cantlie says he will reveal "the truth" about the Islamic State group.
No Islamic State fighters appear in the videos, which were posted online by users associated with the Islamic state group and reported by the SITE Intelligence Group, a US terrorism watchdog.
In addition to beheaded US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and British aid worker David Haines, the Islamic State group has threatened to kill Alan Henning, a British former taxi driver who was taken captive in December shortly after joining an aid convoy and crossing the border from Turkey into Syria.
|Suspected Islamic State Recruiter Held in Spanish Custody|
|[AnNahar] A Spanish court Sunday remanded the suspected leader of a cell based in north Africa that recruited fighters for the jihadists.|
High Court Judge Javier Gomez Bermudez in Madrid ruled that there was a "high probability" that Mohammed Said Mohammed was the head of the cell based in Melilla, a Spanish territory on the northern tip of Morocco, and the nearby Moroccan city of Nador.
Spanish and Moroccan security forces detained Mohammed, a Spanish national of Moroccan descent, and eight other suspected members of the cell on Friday in Melilla and Nador.
Spain's interior ministry said at the time that Mohammed worked with his brother, a former Spanish soldier and explosives specialist who is currently fighting with IS now in control of large swathes of Iraq and Syria.
Two of the suspected members of the cell are believed to have travelled in July to an area of Syria or Iraq under IS control, the ministry added.
The judge said in his ruling that there was evidence that the suspects were planning their "imminent" departure to join the IS jihadists.
He said Mohammed had made contradictory statements during questioning, such as claiming not to know the other suspects who were detained on Friday even though witnesses had seen him meeting with them.
Moroccan authorities estimate there are between 1,500 and 2,000 Moroccans fighting in Syria and Iraq. Spain has dozens of suspected in raids this year.
IS fighters have beheaded a British aid worker and two U.S. journalists, and are holding two other Britons, Alan Henning and John Cantlie.
A U.S.-led alliance has launched air strikes against the IS in Syria and Iraq.
Spain has spoken out against the brutality of the Islamic State, which is also known as ISIS, but it has not participated in military strikes against the in Iraq or Syria.
|Jihadist Says Foley, Cantlie Converted to Islam in Captivity|
|[AnNahar] Western journalists James Foley and John Cantlie converted to Islam while being held hostage in Syria, a Belgian newspaper quoted a jihadist suspect as saying Wednesday, adding that the pair may have been forced to do so.|
Foley, an American, was beheaded by the (IS) group last month, while Cantlie, a Briton, is believed to be still in captivity.
IS has been accused of forcing Christians and other minorities to convert to Islam during their sweep across parts of Iraq.
The -language newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws cited testimony from Jejoen Bontinck, a 19-year-old Belgian Islamist convert who was detained in October 2013 upon his return from an eight-month visit to Syria and charged with belonging to a terrorist group.
Bontinck told Belgian interrogators that in August 2013 IS suspected him of spying and put him in a prison in the region of Aleppo where the two Western journalists were being held, according to the newspaper.
"Foley and Cantlie were kidnapped by the Nusra Front," the branch of Al-Qaeda in the country, "outside an Internet cafe," the Belgian former fighter said.
He said the two journalists were moved about on several occasions and "tortured" while "barely getting enough to eat" before they were handed over to IS.
It was around two weeks into their captivity by IS that they told the young Belgian that they had converted to Islam, Bontinck was quoted as saying.
"They told me that they had not always led an exemplary life, that for example they had not shown enough respect for their mothers and that they understood it thanks to their conversion," Bontinck said.
He said nonetheless that his jailers encouraged him to convince his two cellmates to convert to Islam, suggesting that the hostage takers had not taken seriously the two men's prior conversion to Islam, the newspaper said.
The Islamic State broadcast a video of Foley's murder on August 19. Another U.S. journalist, Steven Sotloff, was beheaded two weeks later.
On September 18, the group broadcast a video of Cantlie, who said he had been kidnapped following his arrival in Syria in November 2012.
|Analyst: Islamic State Propaganda Seeks to Draw West to Battle|
|[VOA News] As a U.S.-led coalition coordinates strategy against the Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, the group's tech-savvy public relations machine grabs headlines with shocking videos and other propaganda. But some regional analysts say while the Islamic State warns the coalition to stay away, its real goal is to draw the West into battle.|
In a video released Thursday, British journalist John Cantlie speaks like a newscaster, saying he is a prisoner of the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS and ISIL.
Cantlie was kidnapped in Syria two years ago while traveling with James Foley, an American reporter. The militants have beheaded Foley, another American journalist and a British aid worker. In the video, which looks professionally shot, Cantlie wears orange like the other men wore when they were beheaded.
|New ISIS Video Uses Brit Prisoner As Mouthpiece|
|[Ynet] Report claims Islamic State released a new video in which captured journalist John Cantlie promises to expose the 'truth behind Islamic State'|
Cantlie, a former war photographer and report for a number of UK publications, addresses the camera from behind a table in a dark room.
In the video, Cantlie says he was "abandoned" by the UK government and claims he will seek to counter the "manipulated truths" told by world media against the Islamic State in a number of videos.
"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," Cantlie says.
"Well, 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."
"Over the next few programs, I am going to show you the truth as the Western media tries to drag the public back to the abyss of another war with the Islamic State," he concludes.
In the new video, titled "Lend Me Your Ears, Messages from the British Detainee John Cantlie," the man identified as Cantlie says he was captured by the Islamic State after arriving in Syria in November 2012.
He says he worked for newspapers and magazines in including the Sunday Times, the Sun and the Sunday Telegraph.
"After two disastrous and hugely unpopular wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, why is it that our governments appear so keen to get involved in yet another unwinnable conflict?" the man says in the video.
|France to join US air war against jihadists in Iraq|
|[Al Ahram] said Thursday that it will follow the United States in launching air strikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq, as the jihadists posted their latest video of a Western hostage. |
But unlike in previous grisly postings by IS in which they beheaded two American journalists and a British aid worker, British photojournalist John Cantlie was only shown speaking to camera in the style of a news report.
The French move came as Washington was set to approve plans to train and arm Syrian rebels in the fight against IS, which has gained more ground in recent days. President underlined that there would be no French air strikes against IS targets in Syria like those that his US counterpart authorised last week.
"I decided to respond to the request of the Iraqi authorities to offer aerial support," Hollande told s.
"We will not go further than that. There will be no ground troops and we will only intervene in Iraq."
The US has carried out 174 air strikes against IS in Iraq since early August, and Obama last week authorised their expansion to neighbouring Syria.
began reconnaissance flights over Iraq on Monday from a base in the United Arab Emirates.
too has conducted surveillance flights but has so far held back from launching strikes.
The US Senate was expected to back a plan, approved by the House of Representatives on Wednesday, to train and equip anti-jihadist rebels in Syria, a key part of Obama's strategy against IS. Who exactly will benefit from the programme is unclear, as the rebels battling lack a clear command structure and range from secular nationalists to Al-Qaeda-backed s.
But Obama hailed the House approval as "an important step forward", and Senate leaders are confident it will pass Thursday for his signature.
Obama met military commanders on Wednesday and, in a speech at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, insisted the jihadists will be defeated.
"Our reach is long. If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven. We will find you eventually," Obama said, also standing firm on his pledge that a US ground combat mission is not on the cards.
IS posted a new video on YouTube showing Cantlie in an orange jumpsuit like those worn by the hostages in the previous postings, but with no immediate threat to execute him. In the footage, Cantlie promises to reveal in a series of programmes the "truth" about the jihadist group.
Cantlie, who had contributed to British newspapers including The Sunday Times and Sunday Telegraph, as well as to Agence -Presse, said he was captured after travelling to Syria in November 2012. He had previously been detained along with a Dutch photographer by in Syria in July 2012 but was reportedly released after nine days.
It was not clear when the video was shot, but in it Cantlie referred to recent events including the US-led campaign against IS.
In Syria, IS fighters were closing in on the country's third-largest Kurdish town of Ain al-Arab, or Kobane, on the Turkish border, cutting off its Kurdish militia defenders, a monitoring group said.
"IS fighters have seized at least 21 villages around Kobane," Syrian Observatory for Human Rights head Rami Abdel Rahman said. "The IS is using heavy weaponry, its artillery and tanks."
The town is one of three Kurdish majority districts where Kurdish nationalists have proclaimed self-rule and its capture would give the jihadists control of a large swathe of the Turkish border.
The exiled opposition National Coalition warned of "the danger of a massacre" in the area, where Kurdish militia have put up dogged resistance to the jihadists.
The US estimates that IS has 20,000 to 31,000 fighters, including many foreigners, and there are concerns that returning jihadists could carry out attacks in Western countries.
Australia said it had detained 15 people in connection with a plot to behead random civilians, in the country's largest ever counter-terrorism raids.
But analysts at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) warned against overestimating the IS threat, saying that Al-Qaeda's global network was still the bigger danger worldwide.
"Despite its spectacular acts of violence, including against Westerners, (IS's) short- and medium-term objectives appear to be local and transnational rather than global," the London-based think-tank said.
Analyst Emile Hokayem told a news conference: "We shouldn't exaggerate its potency. It is a very serious security threat to the region -- as a global threat it's still limited."
|Europe's Latest Export: Jihadists|
As the number of European jihadists in Syria grows, European officials are beginning to express concerns about the threat these "enemies within" will pose when they return to Europe.
In , for example, Foreign Secretary William Hague recently said, "Syria is now the number one destination for jihadists anywhere in the world today. This includes a number of individuals connected with the United Kingdom and other European countries. They may not pose a threat to us when they first go to Syria, but if they survive, some may return ideologically hardened and with experience of weapons and explosives."
Many of the British s in Syria have joined groups, including Jabhat al-Nusra, the most dangerous and effective Sunni jihadist group fighting against the Assad regime. Jabhat al-Nusra, linked to al-Qaeda, was declared a terrorist organization by the United States in December 2012. Due to a steady flow of money and arms from backers in , Qatar and other Sunni countries, the group has grown in size and influence.
According to the British newspaper The Independent, most of the British s participating in the fight against Assad "are not deemed to be doing anything illegal" and are thus able to reenter without any problems. The paper reports that only a small number of those who have returned to from the fighting in Syria have been , but all for one specific offense: their alleged role in the July 2012 kidnapping of a British freelance photographer, John Cantlie, after he crossed into Syria.