VIA| For ten months, French journalist Nicolas Hénin lived in a cell alongside American James Foley. “Jihadi John” even had a special nickname for Henin: Baldy.

Hénin recounted the tone of their conversations while he was a captive:

“All of those beheaded last year were my cellmates, and my jailers would play childish games with us – mental torture – saying one day that we would be released and then two weeks later observing blithely, ‘Tomorrow we will kill one of you.’

The first couple of times we believed them but after that we came to realise that for the most part they were bullsh*tters having fun with us.”

The Danish photographer who was also held hostage alongside Foley told a similar story, recounting a time when he was forced to dance the Tango with Jihadi John.

But Hénin went on to speak about the things that truly seemed to rattle his captors, the events that seemed to scare them the most:

“They follow the news obsessively, but everything they see goes through their own filter. They are totally indoctrinated, clinging to all manner of conspiracy theories, never acknowledging the contradictions.

With their news and social media interest, they will be noting everything that follows their murderous assault on Paris, and my guess is that right now the chant among them will be ‘We are winning’.

They will be heartened by every sign of overreaction, of division, of fear, of racism, of xenophobia; they will be drawn to any examples of ugliness on social media.

Central to their world view is the belief that communities cannot live together with Muslims, and every day their antennae will be tuned towards finding supporting evidence…Cohesion, tolerance – it is not what they want to see.”


His final assessment was that bombing is the response ISIS wants, because it reinforces their world view. He feels that to truly scare them, the worldwide response should be to welcome the refugees and coexist with them peacefully.

Hénin also placed the blame for the rise of ISIS – particularly in Syria – on the shoulders of Syrian Bashar al-Assad, saying that unless the Assad regime is toppled, ISIS cannot be defeated.