The video opens with shaky footage of a convoy of three vehicles moving through scrubby mountain terrain, before cutting to a small knot of armed men, faces obscured, leading Tice up a mountain path while calling “Allahu al-Akbar,” or “God is great.”
A blindfolded Tice is then pushed to his knees and filmed speaking a prayer in Arabic. Tice, visibly distressed, cries out “Oh Jesus, oh Jesus” in English, before reverting to Arabic, seconds before the footage is cut.
The emergence of the video comes amid other reports suggesting that Tice has been in the custody of the Syrian government. Experts on Monday cautioned against taking the apparent content of the video clip at face value because, they said, there are clear discrepancies between the footage of Tice and other videos released by Islamist extremist groups operating in Syria.
Those discrepancies included the clothing of Tice’s apparent captors, the production quality of the film, the means of distribution and other signs that cast doubt on whether Tice was actually being held by one of the extremist groups that has become active in battling Syria’s government. Assad’s government has been eager to portray the country’s conflict, which has claimed more than 30,000 lives, as a struggle against Islamist extremist groups within Syria.
In the video, the captors are wearing Afghan-style salwar-kameez — tunic and pants — that appear to be freshly pressed and clean. The video would mark the first time Syrian rebels have been seen wearing such clothes, said Joseph Holliday, who researches Syrian rebel groups at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War.
Islamist extremists typically address the camera head-on with statements, but in this instance the film has been carefully edited to avoid displaying any faces, he said. And the only comments made are the phrases “Allahu al-Akbar” and “takhbir,” which means praise.
“It’s like a caricature of a jihadi group,” he said. “It looks like someone went to the Internet, watched pictures of Afghan mujaheddin, then copied them.”
“My gut instinct is that regime security guys dressed up like a bunch of wahoos and dragged him around and released the video to scare the U.S. and others about the danger of al-Qaeda extremists in Syria. It would fit their narrative perfectly,” he said.
Previous reports have suggested that Tice was captured by Syrian government forces on the outskirts of the capital, Damascus. The Czech ambassador to Syria, who represents American interests in the country, said in late August that she believed Tice was being held by the Syrian government. Evidence collected by news organizations investigating Tice’s disappearance has supported that claim. The Syrian government has not publicly commented.