Why Hostages in ISIS Execution Videos Appear Calm Before Death

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A former militant with the Islamic State reveals hostages are subjected to repeated mock execution and torture before their videotaped beheadings. (dailymail.co.uk photo)
A former militant with the Islamic State reveals hostages are subjected to repeated mock execution and torture before their videotaped beheadings. (dailymail.co.uk photo)

Militants with the Islamic State (ISIS) give hostages Arabic names and subject them to mock executions before they are killed in front of a camera, according to a defector.

A former ISIS militant who used the alias “Saleh” told Britain’s Sky News that executioners would subject hostages to “rehearsal” executions where they were repeatedly assured they would not be harmed.

Saleh said executioners would often claim that the rehearsals were only for the camera, that hostages were told not to worry and that their appearances and associated statements were only meant to encourage governments to stop attacking IS targets in Syria.

The defector also claimed IS militants would give their hostages Arabic names “to convince them they were among friends in order to calm them down,” Sky News reported.

The names and numerous rehearsals are likely why hostages appeared so calm in Islamic State-released videos in which the victims were forced to read lengthy, often confessional, statements moments before their deaths.

In most of the videos, the executioner was a Briton known as “Jihadi John,” who last week was unmasked in news reports as 26-year-old West London native Mohammed Emwazi. Saleh told Sky News that Emwazi is the chief executioner of foreign hostages.

Saleh claimed to have witnessed the recent execution of Kenji Goto, a Japanese citizen and freelance journalist who traveled to Syria last year. In a video released by IS in January, militants said they would free Goto and another Japanese hostage in exchange for a $200 million ransom payment. Militants later withdrew the ransom request, offering to release Goto in exchange for a Jordanian prisoner. Goto was beheaded in late January after the exchange fell through.

Saleh said his role with the group was to translate messages between IS militants and their foreign hostages. He claimed to have witnessed the Goto’s murder from a distance.

“After he was killed him, three or four person come and take over the body and put in a car,” Saleh said. “After that, [Emwazi] went on a different road.”

Saleh told Sky News that Emwazi’s willingness to kill foreign hostages both intimidated fellow militants and earned the Londoner their respect.

Emwazi grew up in Britain and graduated from the University of Westminster with a computer programming degree. After numerous run-ins with British intelligence officials, Emwazi became dismayed by his home country and traveled to Syria in 2013 to join IS.

Matthew Keys is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.

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