Former hostage of Isis Beatles describes torture following failed escape attempt

A former hostage of Isis described the brutal torture he received from his captors following an escape attempt.

Nicholas Henin, a French journalist who was held by Isis for 10 months in Syria, said he was taken to several different torture rooms following his escape effort in June 2013, just a few days into his captivity.

Speaking at the trial of British Isis fighter El Shafee Elsheikh in Alexandria, Virginia, Mr Henin described breaking the bars of his makeshift jail cell with a broom and climbing out through a small window.

“I jumped outside and started running through the desert. I ran all through the night,” he said.

Mr Henin ran until he came to a village outside of Raqqa, where he was being held. He found two men dressed in pajamas and asked for their help, but they turned out to be Isis fighters.

“Unfortunately you cannot recognize Isis fighters in pajamas,” he said.

The fighters detained Mr Henin and he was eventually picked up by a group of fighters, who took him back to the jail.

There, Mr Henin said he was taken to four different torture rooms by prison guards. He was beaten, punched and handcuffed in stress positions for hours while his captors shouted questions at him. At one point, they knelt on his back from him and told him they would kill him.

El Shafee Elsheikh photographed following his capture

(Syrian Democratic Forces)

“I told them please do it, I don’t care,” Mr Henin told the court. He was then chained up for 11 days in a small room.

Mr Henin also spoke of his treatment at the hands of the so-called Isis ‘Beatles’, a nickname given to a group of three British Isis fighters by their captives.

Prosecutors allege that Elsheikh was one of those three. He is charged with involvement in a vast hostage-taking operation during his time with Isis in Syria, which ultimately led to the killing of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and aid workers Kayla Mueller and Peter Kassig. The indictment also holds him responsible for the deaths of British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning.

Elsheikh’s defense team said their client has denied being a member of the Beatles, and was just a “simple Isis soldier.” Prosecutors have played several media interviews in which Elsheikh admits to managing Western hostages, including the victims named in the indictment.

Mr Henin described how he had first heard of the Beatles from fellow hostages David Haines and Federico Motka, who had been held and brutalized by the group already.

They told Mr Henin that the Beatles “were not like the other” guards.

“They said they were sadistic. They were shaking when they arrived,” he said.

Other details James Foley and John Cantlie also told Mr Henin that the Beatles had tortured them, he said.

Mr Henin testified that the Beatles were central to the Isis hostage-taking scheme, a central claim of the prosecution’s case. He said he was told by a French-speaking Isis guard that the three Brits were responsible for negotiating their ransoms.

“[The guard said] the more you see of them, the better, because they are in charge of negotiations,” Mr Henin recounted.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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