ISIS Defector Describes ‘Mind Games’ With Hostages Before Beheadings
A man claiming to be an escaped former interpreter with the Islamic State terror group has revealed unnerving details on the jihadis’ handling methods of high-profile foreign hostages.
In an interview with British network Sky News, the man describes that hostages in the group’s infamous beheading videos rarely knew they were about to die. Instead, he claims, they were deliberately told that they were just being filmed for a ransom video.
But the hostages were also manipulated into compliant obedience through “rehearsals” — mock executions. Surviving a near-death situation, the prisoners would gradually develop a false sense of security and become confident that their lives were in no immediate danger.
“Saleh’s” description matches other accounts by escaped hostages, in which IS treats its foreign captives with a mix of affection and hostility. According to the man, who uses the common Arabic name Saleh as an alias, some prisoners received Arabic nicknames — Japanese journalist Kenji Goto became “Abu Saad” — and were gently cajoled about becoming Muslims.
He also confirms recent claims that the masked, British-accented executioner called “Jihadi John” is Kuwaiti-born Mohammed Emwazi, describing him as the “big boss” whose job was killing all the group’s foreign hostages. He emphasizes that Emwazi was completely unafraid of killing foreigners and commanded great respect from the other militants.
By contrast, he says, a prisoner who was Syrian or another Arab was available to be executed by any militant. Only the valuable foreigners were treated with the caution he describes.
In Sky News’ video, “Saleh” speaks imperfect and accented English, occasionally interspersed with Arabic words as well as some Turkish (“prova” for “rehearsal” and “hemen” for “immediately”). The British network claims that it found him in a majority-Arab city in southern Turkey, near the border with Syria.
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