Report: Suspect in Brussels Jewish Museum shooting was IS member who tortured prisoners in Syria

French newspaper Le Point reports that its reporter Nicholas Henin was tortured by Mehdi Nemmouche.

September 6, 2014 16:34
3 minute read.
Suspect in Brussels Jewish Museum shooting.

Suspect in Brussels Jewish Museum shooting.. (photo credit: BELGIUM POLICE)


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PARIS – The French Islamist who killed four people at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in May and had tortured hostages in Syria for Islamic State had a “violent and provocative character,” one of his French ex-detainees said.

Nicolas Henin told the press Saturday of Mehdi Nemmouche’s love for torture, confirming a long and exclusive report the daily Le Monde published.

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Henin was one of four French journalists freed from Syria on April 20, who then gave information on the conditions of their detention to the Direction Generale de la Securite Interieure (DGSI), and was then transferred to the anti-terrorist section of Paris’s public prosecutor’s office, according to Le Monde.

The hostages gave details of Nemmouche as a torturer, whose victims included American journalist James Foley and Israeli-American journalist Steven Sotloff, both beheaded by Islamic State terrorists.

Nemmouche, 29, from Roubaix near Lille in northern France, was arrested six days after he committed the May 24 terrorist attack in Brussels.

He shot to death a tourist couple from Tel Aviv, as well as two others, a French woman and a Belgian museum worker.

He was arrested in Marseille and extradited to Belgium, after he received assurances he would not be transferred to a third country (Israel).

He is to appear before a Brussels court on Friday.

He was among the captors of the four French hostages who were freed after 10 months of detention in Syria, Le Monde reported. The daily added that he had tortured prisoners.

According to Le Monde, the four, Didier Francois, Edouard Elias, Nicolas Henin and Pierre Torres, who were captured in June 2013, don’t agree whether to testify against Nemmouche or not.

“Their memories are not similar...for some it is just a possibility, others are more sure about that,” Le Monde wrote about the hostages uncertainty if Nemmouche was their torturer and not some other figure. The paper said the testimony given to French intelligence was “suspicious.”

“There are different degrees of estimation [toward the identity of the torturer].”

Since their arrest, the hostages have been regularly consulted by the secret services.

“I wish to maintain the preliminary investigation, which is the best way to preserve the security of the people still in the hands of the Islamic State,” said Didier Francois, who, according to web sites, is opposed to identifying Nemmouche for the safety of those who are still there.

A source responsible for a nongovernmental organization told Le Monde, “They [the four] have right to demand justice, since Mehdi Nemmouche was there.”

On April 20, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius revealed that some guards “spoke French,” adding there were also Belgians, Italians and “Europeans in general participating in the jihad.”

Judicial sources told Le Monde that the status of the four has been changed “from simple witnesses to victims demanding reparations,” and the Paris public prosecutor’s office, lead by Francois Molins, “wishes to avoid such a situation.”

The question, according to Le Monde, is now, concerning Nemmouche’s Brussels attack: “was he on a mission or did he take the initiative?” Another ex-hostage, Belgian Jejoen Bontinck, 18, who was originally a jihadist and then detained with Foley after refusing to fight, escaped from jail and gave a similar testimony to the four French hostages, according to Le Monde.

Henin told the magazine Le Point that he was “mistreated” by Nemmouche.

“When he was not singing, he was torturing. He was a member of a small group of French nationals whose arrival used to terrify about 50 Syrian prisoners in cells near ours...I myself had been interrogated...the torture went all night long, until the dawn prayer,” Henin said. “For one-and-a-half months, we were chained up together.”

Nemmouche “took pleasure” in carrying out torture, according to BFMTV television.

The fact that Nemmouche was in charge of the four French nationals “is not surprising, since ISIS [Islamic State] tries to recruit people of same nationality as their detainees,” BFMTV reported.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve called Nemmouche a “big terrorist” and a “horrific character” who “must be judged... in order to insure French citizens’ security.”

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