Former ISIS Hostage Claims Mehdi Nemmouche, Jewish Museum Shooting Suspect, Was His Captor

A French journalist who was once abducted by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria believes he has identified one of his captors. Ex-hostage Nicolas Henin claims French national Mehdi Nemmouche is working with ISIS, holding Henin, along with slain journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, captive in Aleppo, Syria. Henin was held captive by ISIS for about 10 months, and was later freed in April. 

Who is Mehdi Nemmouche? He's the leading suspect in the May shooting at a Jewish museum in Brussels, Belgium, which left four people dead. Arrested in France the day after the shooting, the 29-year-old French national was extradited to Belgium in July. The Belgian government is currently treating the shooting as a terrorist attack.

If Henin's claims are true, it wouldn't be much of a surprise that Nemmouche was one of his jailers. Following his arrest, an investigation revealed that Nemmouche allegedly worked with ISIS in Syria for more than a year, though his lawyers are denying claims that he has ties to ISIS. At the time of his arrest, however, Nemmouche reportedly had a white sheet depicting the name Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. 

So, what does this mean for ISIS and the ongoing investigation to find the captors that killed Foley and Sotloff? For starters, if these claims end up being verified, Nemmouche would become the first European with ties to ISIS to commit an act of terrorism on Western soil. 

But, now that he's in custody, Nemmouche may also be able to provide more clues for investigators who are trying to rescue the remaining hostages currently in the hands of ISIS leaders.

Henin told reporters on Saturday that he was held in an Aleppo hospital that was converted into an ISIS prison. He said Nemmouche was very brutal, and would beat him and the other hostages, including James Foley, daily:

After beating me up, he would show me his gloves. He was very proud of his motorcycle gloves. He told me he had bought them especially for me.

Henin wrote about his experience for the first since being released in an article for French magazine Le Point, published on Saturday. An excerpt from his article reads:

When Nemmouche did not sing, he tortured. He was a member of a small group of French whose coming terrorized the fifty Syrian prisoners in neighboring cells Every night shots ... began to rain in the room in which I myself had been questioned. Torture lasted all night until the dawn prayer. The screams of prisoners sometimes met yelps in French.

Henin, along with two other French journalists released with him, held this information from the public for months, out of safety for both them and the remaining ISIS hostages, including Foley and Sotloff. 

It's not only French nationals ISIS is recruiting. According to recent reports from the Pentagon, about a dozen Americans may be fighting with ISIS in Syria. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel added that more than 100 Americans are believed to be fighting with other Syrian rebel groups.

Images: Getty Images

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