A former Islamic State hostage revealed Sunday that ISIS held a group of Western hostages in a compound near Aleppo in northern Syria where its British militant "Jihadi John" staged mock executions to replicate the prison in Guantanamo, Cuba, for jihadist combatants.
The ISIS terror group, also known as ISIL, held about 22 European, American and Latin American journalists and humanitarian workers in a village north of Aleppo and repeatedly subjected them to mock executions by three militant guards, former hostage Javier Espinosa, a Spanish journalist, wrote in El Mundo newspaper Sunday.
The trio included "Jihadi John," who has appeared in ISIS videos of beheading released in the recent months. The prisoners called the brutal guards "The Beatles," according to Agence France Presse.
"The Beatles ... loved this sort of theatre. They had me sat on the floor, barefoot, with a shaven head, a thick beard and dressed in the 'orange' uniform' that had made Guantanamo, the American prison, famous," Espinosa wrote, according to Scotsman.
"Jihadi John wanted maximum drama. He had brought along an antique sword of the kind Muslim armies used in the Middle Ages. It was a blade of almost a meter in length with a silver handle," added Espinosa, who was kidnapped on Sept. 16, 2013 and freed on March 29, 2014.
ISIS' masked executioner "Jihadi John" was recently identified as Mohammed Emwazi, a Kuwaiti-born Londoner.
"He caressed my neck with the blade but kept talking: 'Feel it? Cold, isn't it? Can you imagine the pain you'll feel when it cuts? Unimaginable pain,'" the Spanish journalist narrated. "After finishing with the sword he holstered his pistol, a Glock. He placed it against my head and pulled the trigger three times. Click. Click. Click. It's called a mock execution. But not even this terrifying intimidation seemed to satisfy them."
Espinosa also wrote about what he'd been told by American journalist James Foley, who was executed last year, according to AFP.
"'They had this project for a long time. The [head guard] told us at the beginning they wanted to intern Westerners in a high-security prison with cameras and lots of guards.' 'They told us that we would be here for a very long time, because we were the first ones they captured,'" Foley told him.
The militants also showed them images from the execution of Russian engineer Sergei Gorbunov, who was supposedly killed with an exploding bullet fired to his head.
"You may wind up like him," a guard told Espinosa. "Or maybe we will make you unearth him and dig another grave so you can sleep with him."
Espinosa said he waited for about a year to share his experience because he had been warned that other hostages would be killed if he did so. Now, almost all his fellow captives have either been released or killed.
A U.K.-based Muslim advocacy group, CAGE, claims that British security agencies harassed Emwazi between 2009 and 2012, suggesting that his treatment caused him to become a dreaded terrorist.
However, not many have believed CAGE's theory.
An ex-ISIS fighter, identified as Abu Ayman, told BBC recently that Emwazi wanted to appear in ISIS videos that have purported to show beheading of Western and other hostages.
Ayman, who met Emwazi in Syria about two years ago, said Emwazi appeared strange to him the first time he met him.
"He was cold. He didn't talk much. He wouldn't join us in prayer. He'd only pray with his friends," Ayman was quoted as saying. "The other British brothers prayed with us, but he was strange. The other British brothers would say 'hi' when they saw us on the road, but he turned his face away. The British fighters were always hanging out together, but he wouldn't join them."
Asked how Emwazi turned into a brutal soldier of ISIS, Ayman said, "ISIS have professional psychologists. They know who to choose from the fighters and how to make them famous. Still, there was nothing special about Jihadi John… anyone could have become like him. The emirs give the orders – and in return you get promoted. Many brothers joined Isis for new weapons, luxury guns, to drive better jeeps and to show off."