(JTA) – The French gunman accused of killing four people at the Jewish Museum of Belgium has been identified as one of the Islamists who held a French journalist captive in Syria.
The journalist, Nicolas Henin, told reporters at a news conference on Saturday that Mehdi Nemmouche was one of his captors for six months and had mistreated his prisoners. Henin called Nemmouche “violent and provocative.”
Henin said he recognized Nemmouche from video and audio recordings after Nemmouche was arrested in the Brussels shooting. The journalist said he was held for a time with American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, who were killed by an ISIS member who beheaded them on camera and released the videos. Henin was released in April 2013.
“When Nemmouche was not singing, he was torturing. He was part of a small group of Frenchmen whose visits would terrify the 50-odd Syrian prisoners held in the cells nearby,” Henin told the French magazine Le Point, which broke the story on Saturday. “Every night the blows would start raining down in the room, where I was also interrogated. The torture lasted all night, until dawn prayers.”
Nemmouche has been in police custody on suspicion of murder, attempted murder and possession of weapons since his arrest on May 30 in the southern French city of Marseille nearly a week after the May 24 museum attack.
French authorities believe he left for Syria via Belgium to fight with jihadists in 2012 before returning to Europe.