A former hostage of the Islamic State who was imprisoned alongside executed Westerners Alan Henning and Peter Kassig, among others, reports that the terrorist group had built a rudimentary replica of America’s Guantánamo Bay facility in Syria with the intention of filling it with Western citizens and torturing them.
Javier Espinosa, a journalist for Spanish newspaper El Mundo, published an extended testimonial regarding captivity in the custody of the Islamic State in Syria. Espinosa remained a captive of the terrorist group between September 2013 and March 2014, when he was released.
The first-person El Mundo report is extremely long and detailed, and notes that Espinosa had kept his silence since being released because he was told that any public statement on his abduction could lead to the deaths of other hostages. “When all is known you can insult us all you want, we don’t care,” one of the terrorists told Espinosa in Syria. He explains: “the current testimony has not been able to be made public until now because the group in charge of foreign hostages threatened us expressly with executing one of them if, upon being freed, we spoke about this incident in the media.”
Espinosa notes that all those captive with him appear to have been confirmed dead, except for John Cantlie, a British hostage turned regular Islamic State TV host. Cantlie claimed in his latest video appearance that it would be the “last in the series,” and no evidence that he is still alive has surfaced since.
Espinosa notes multiple times that he was spared much of the worst during captivity. He nonetheless opens his article with a shocking interaction with “Jihadi John,” a senior Islamic State executioner that has since been identified as Mohammed Emwazi:
The sabre’s edge grazed my throat. The “Beatles”– that is the nickname we used for the three militants– always loved putting on a show. They had sat me on the floor. Barefoot. With my head shaved. A long beard and dressed only in the orange uniform sadly made popular by the American prison at Guantánamo.
John tried to increase the drama. He caressed my neck with steel without stopping his talking.
“Can you tell? It’s cold, right? Imagine the plain this would produce if I stabbed you with it. An unimaginable pain. With the first stab I would cut your veins. Your blood would mix with your saliva.”
He loaded his Glock. He placed it on my head and pulled the trigger three times. Click. Click. Click.
They call it “false execution.” You shoot with the safety latch on, though the victim doesn’t know this.
Espinosa goes on to note that the facility in which he was held in northern Aleppo, Syria, was intended to be a recreation of Guantánamo in which Westerners would be tortured as revenge for the capture of jihadists in the American facility. The Spanish journalist describes the facility as having originally been “an elegant mansion with subterranean rooms used as dungeons. One of the few residents in the region with European-style toilets and halogen lightbulbs on the ceilings.”
The total number of Western captives under Islamic State control is not yet known, nor is the number of Western citizens that have voluntarily joined the Islamic State (though it is estimated to be in the thousands). Espinosa is believed to be one of the few captured Western journalists to have survived abduction by the Islamic State.