(NEW YORK) — Before the murder of American James Foley was captured on video and posted online recently, the journalist once suffered “brutal punishment” because his captors believed he was planning to escape, a former fellow hostage told ABC News.
“James was a bit punished for a presumed attempt to escape, but it had no real chance,” French freelance reporter Nicolas Henin told ABC News, after saying he once attempted to escape himself but was caught after wandering in the Syrian countryside for a few hours.
Henin said Foley was met with “brutal punishment” inspired both by his captor’s suspicions and, as Henin put it, “the American war on terror.” Out of respect for Foley’s parents, Benin declined to provide details about Foley’s punishment.
Henin said he was captured last year and held by ISIS for 10 months – seven of which he spent alongside Foley before Henin was released this April. He didn’t say exactly when the violent incident with Foley took place, but it was while Henin was also in captivity.
Tuesday a gruesome video surfaced online showing a self-professed ISIS militant beheading Foley in retaliation for recent U.S. airstrikes on ISIS targets in Iraq.
Henin said that for him, watching the video was “extremely shocking” because he so easily could have been in Foley’s place.
“For instance, the shoes that he was wearing when he was taken to this place in the desert, I wore them. We had few shoes that we were using to go to the bathroom and we were sharing them,” Henin said.
Foley, Henin said, was always optimistic about his chances of being freed, even though the United States does not negotiate with terrorists by policy. Henin said eventually a large group of hostages from many countries had been released, leaving the Americans together.
The U.S. and the U.K., Henin said, “do not negotiate with jihadists” – a statement that echoed the findings of a New York Times report in late July that said that while European governments regularly pay ransoms to terror groups to recover their citizens, the U.S. and U.K. refuse.
In Foley’s last moments, when hope must have run out, Henin also recognized Foley’s bravery in the video.
“That is someone, I mean, a real man,” Henin said. “Many people would’ve freaked out and [been] terrified because he knew very well what was going to happen to him… But [he] was still standing up, looking forward and speaking with a clear voice.”
President Obama said Wednesday that the whole world was “appalled” by ISIS’s actions and vowed to continue to work to protect Americans everywhere. Hours later, the U.S. military announced it had continued bombing runs against ISIS targets.
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