ISIS inmates were forced to sing “Hotel Osama” with lyrics referring to beheading, hostage testifies at Virginia terror trial

A French journalist detained by ISIS testified Wednesday that he and other hostages were forced by their captors to sing a depraved parody of the Eagles song “Hotel California,” called “Hotel Osama.”

“It was terrifying to us, a joke to them,” Nicolas Henin said in the Arlington, Virginia trial of El Shafee Elsheikhoa 33-year-old former British subject.

Elsheikh is accused of involvement in the murders of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and rescuers Kayla Mueller and Peter Kassig.

Henin is one of several former hostages to testify at the federal court trial of the alleged member of the infamous ISIS kidnapping and murder cell known as the “Beatles.”

French journalist and former hostage in Syria Nicolas Henin gives a press conference at the headquarters of Le Point newspaper on September 6, 2014 in Paris.

ALAIN JOCARD/AFP via Getty Images

Henin said the words to “Hotel Osama” contain the original lyrics of “Hotel California” about checking in but never leaving, but with a twist.

“If you try, you will die in Mr. Bigley’s style,” the lyrics read, a reference to British engineer Kenneth Bigley, who was beheaded in 2004 by Jordan Abu Musab Zarqawi, head of al-Qaeda. terror network in Iraq.

Henin said he was captured in June 2013 during his fifth reporting trip to Syria.

He was held alone in a bathroom for two days, but managed to escape by smashing bars on the windows with a broom.

After running all night, he arrived in a village at dawn and spoke to two men in pajamas.

“Unfortunately, they were ISIS fighters,” he said.

He returned to captivity, was beaten and brought out and “hung in the air for a few hours” with his hands and feet chained together.

“Of course I’m going to die”

Henin was later placed with other hostages, including Frenchman Pierre Torres and Danish photographer Daniel Rye Ottenson.

British aid worker David Haines and Italian aid worker Federico Motka arrived late.

After being taken to another prison, three guards arrived one day, speaking with a British accent.

Haines and Motka told the other hostages they were the “Beatles,” Henin said, using the nickname given to the jihadist guards because of their British accent.

“They were terrified,” he said of Haines and Motka. “Shake.”

They were later joined by Sotloff, Foley, John Cantlie, a British journalist who was imprisoned along with Foley, Toni Neukirch, a German citizen, and five MSF (MSF) employees.

He said the Beatles would come once or twice a week, “sometimes for a round of beatings.”

After his release in April 2014, Henin provided authorities with information used in a rescue attempt.

“I spent a long time at agencies, describing the location and giving details to the person responsible for preparing the raid,” Henin said.

The US-led rescue mission was launched on July 4, 2014, but the hostages had been relocated just days earlier.

“They were relocated prior to the operation,” said Robert Daniel Story, an FBI special agent who was involved in the preparations for the raid and took the stand after Henin.

“We were very disappointed,” Story says.

The “Beatles” held at least 27 foreign hostages in Syria between 2012 and 2015.

A number of European journalists and aid workers were released after ransoms were paid, but the Americans – Foley, Sotloff and Kassig – were murdered and videos of their killings were released by IS for propaganda purposes.

Peter Kassig


Kassig’s father read the letter his son wrote from the witness stand in 2014.

“Dad, I’m paralyzed here. I’m afraid to fight back. Part of me still has hope. Part of me is sure I’m going to die,” he wrote to his father, Ed Kassig.

The long, handwritten letter was delivered to his family by a released hostage.

“Don’t worry, daddy, when I go down I won’t think of anything but what I know to be true, that you and mama love me more than the moon!” Peter Kassig wrote.

Kayla Mueller has reportedly been handed over to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who allegedly raped her repeatedly before killing her.

Elsheikh and another former British subject, Alexanda Amon Kotey, were captured by a Kurdish militia in Syria in January 2018.

They were handed over to US forces in Iraq and flown to Virginia in 2020 to be charged with hostage-taking, conspiracy to murder US civilians and supporting a foreign terrorist organization.

Kotey pleaded guilty in September 2021 and risks lifelong.

“Beatles” executioner Mohamed Emwazi was killed by an American drone in Syria in 2015, while the fourth member of the cell, Aine Davis, is incarcerated in Turkey after being convicted of terrorism.

Elsheikh has denied the charges and his lawyers allege his arrest is a case of mistaken identity.

The Associated Press contributed coverage.

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