A French journalist who became close with American journalist James Foley while the two were held hostage by ISIS in Syria spoke to the BBC Thursday about the kind of friend Foley was under the extreme circumstances of their captivity.
Nicolas Henin was held for ten months before his April release, thanks to the French government’s negotiations with the radical Islamist group.
He was confined in the same space as Foley, who was captured in November 2012 and beheaded in a video released by the Islamic State Tuesday.
“James was a lovely person,” he told BBC. “James was probably, among the whole group of hostages, the person I appreciated the most, because he was so truly generous, so human, and basically anything he could share, he would share it. If we were cold and missing blankets he would share it, if we were starving and missing food he would share his ration.”
Henin said the hostages — guilty of serving as ‘opinion-makers’ of the West, in ISIS’s view — were kept in “extremely narrow rooms” with bottles and buckets for using the bathroom, because their captors didn’t provide frequent access to bathroom facilities. Henin and Foley were once handcuffed together for a week straight.
Foley coped with the conditions better than the other hostages, although he was beaten more frequently.
“He was kind of a scapegoat for them, because he was an American and because the kidnappers knew that his brother was in the U.S. Air Force,” Henin said.
When mourning the loss of his friend, Henin will focus on the “few opportunities we had to laugh loud together.”
“I’m just horrified, because it’s not only a colleague who has been killed, it’s also a friend and my best cell mate,” he said.
Didier François, one of four French hostages released in April, also recently praised Foley’s conviction and spirit, describing him as a calm, strong prisoner who stood out for advocating on behalf of his fellow hostages for more food and better treatment.
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