A freed French hostage held with David Haines has said one of his kidnappers took a perverse pleasure in torturing Syrian prisoners, and had boasted of how he had raped and killed a young mother before beheading her baby.
Nicolas Hénin, a journalist, identified one of his kidnappers as Mehdi Nemmouche, 29, the French jihadist awaiting trial in Brussels for shooting dead four people at the city’s Jewish Museum after returning to Europe.
He gave details of torture inflicted on prisoners by Isil militants holding the British aid worker David Haines.
Mr Hénin described hearing beatings going on all night until the dawn prayer. He said he had been beaten by Mr Nemmouche, adding: “I don’t know if he [Nemmouche] tortured other western prisoners.”
However, Mr Hénin's account matches reports of beatings inflicted on other hostages including James Foley and Steven Sotloff, the two American journalists who have been beheaded in the past month.
Mr Haines, 44, who was captured in March 2013, is also said to have been tortured in the early months of his captivity and left needing medical attention.
Mr Hénin described Mr Nemmouche as a publicity-loving sadist who “is awaiting trial with delight”. The magazine reporter said he was known as “Abu Omar the hitter” and had told him how he had enjoyed raping a woman before slitting her throat and killing her baby. “It’s such a pleasure to cut off a baby’s head,” Mr Hénin quoted him as saying.
Mr Hénin added that Mr Nemmouche had gone to Syria “not to construct an ideal but out of a lack of recognition, to fulfil himself.”
Another ex-hostage, Didier François, said he was “furious’ at the revelations by Mr Hénin. “It’s irresponsible,” Mr François said. “It’s dangerous to put out this information. It poses a real problem for the investigation in progress, for witnesses and for the hostages who remain there.”
After Mr Nemmouche returned to Europe, he was accused of a terrorist attack on the Jewish Museum in Brussels in May. He allegedly opened fire indiscriminately, killing an Israeli couple, a French woman and a Jewish member of staff. He was arrested in Marseille in possession of guns and ammunition along with a tape in which he allegedly claimed responsibility for the attack.
He has been extradited to Belgium, where he is in custody charged with “murder in a terrorist context”. He denies the charges.