We tried to kill ourselves to stop the ISIS Beatles torturing us, says French hostage as describes being kept awake by victims’ screams at US trial
After being tortured, starved and dragged through the blood of fellow prisoners, a French war photographer kidnapped by ISIS in Syria back in 2013 said he and other hostages attempted to kill themselves.
‘We found plastic bags and ropes,’ Edouard Elias testified Friday during a federal trial against one of his captors, El Shafee Elsheikh, a former British national who was sitting just a feet away in an Alexandria, Virginia courtroom. ‘We tried to find a way of suicide.’
Elsheikh is accused of leading a kidnapping plot that resulted in the killings of US aid workers Kayla Mueller and Peter Kassig and journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.
Elias, 30, who was imprisoned with the American victims, removed his eyeglasses a couple times and took deep breaths to calm himself as he described the horror of his 10-months in captivity nearly a decade ago, and the particularly violent treatment he received at the hands of Elsheikh and two partners dubbed the ISIS ‘Beatles‘ because of their British accents.
French war photographer Edouard Elias kidnapped by ISIS in Syria back in 2013 said he and other hostages attempted to kill themselves
Elias (second from left, in 2014, after release) testified Friday during a federal trial against one of his captors, El Shafee Elsheikh, a former British national who was sitting just a feet away in an Alexandria, Virginia courtroom. ‘We tried to find a way of suicide’
He described the Beatles as ‘the professionals,’ describing how they wore green military uniforms and boots as opposed to flip flops like other guards, wore black masks and carried Glock handguns. They worked as a team as they meted out pain, goading each other on by snapping their fingers, while laughing at the suffering.
Elias said he was among those forced to sing a sadistic version of Hotel California, with special emphasis on the lyric ‘you can never leave.’
‘They repeated it again and again, laughing,’ he said. ‘I cannot listen to that song anymore.’
The photographer was kidnapped in June 2013 along with colleague journalist Didier Francois, within an hour of crossing the border from Turkey. Five IS terrorists with masks and AK-47 assault rifles blindfolded them and forced them into a truck where they were driven to a makeshift prison in the city of Aleppo.
Accused of being a CIA spy, Elias said, one fighter pointed a rifle at his neck, clicking the trigger just to terrorize him. He was placed in a cell, chained to a radiator and deprived of food and water for three days, causing him to hallucinate. When he’d close his eyes, a masked man would storm into the cell and beat him, he testified.
Elias (L), a French photographer who was kidnapped in Syria, arrives to testify at the Albert V. Bryan Federal Courthouse during the trial of IS member El Shafee Elsheikh, the ‘Beatle’, in Alexandria, Virginia, April 8, 2022
Elsheikh is accused of leading a kidnapping plot that resulted in the killings of US aid workers Kayla Mueller and Peter Kassig and journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff
Elias, 30, who was imprisoned with the American victims, removed his eyeglasses a couple times and took deep breaths to calm himself as he described the horror of his 10-months in captivity nearly a decade ago, and the particularly violent treatment he received at the hands of Elsheikh and two partners dubbed the ISIS ‘Beatles’ because of their British accents
The screams of other Westerners being tortured also kept him awake. The worst part was when it stopped.
‘I was very scared because I thought I would be next,’ he said.
He was taken to another facility called the Eye Hospital, where he could see prisoners being brutalized through the slot windows of his cell.
‘You could see their blood everywhere,’ Elias testified. ‘When they took me out of the room for interrogation, they dragged me through the blood of the other victims.’
New prisoners kept arriving. He recalled meeting Danish photographer Dan Rye, who was held hostage for 398 days.
‘He was not like a human being, just a corpse, like a body barely breathing,’ Elias said.
As he testified, families of the American victims could be heard weeping in the gallery. Elsheikh sat silently, occasionally taking notes.
Elias said he met his sadistic crew at the next prison, where they asked him about the conditions. Elias told them he was starving and needed food, and had lice in his pants.
‘When he heard that, he punched me and said this is a sexual disease,’ he recalled.
Other guards would mostly beat prisoners in outside corridors, but the Beatles would routinely enter their cell, force them to face the wall and kneel, then punch and kick them.
Elsheikh is accused of leading a kidnapping plot that resulted in the killings of US aid workers Kayla Mueller (right) and Peter Kassig (left)
Elias’s experience echoed that of several other former hostages who’ve taken the stand over the past two weeks. Like others, he spoke about being forced to make a ‘proof of life’ video pleading for ransom, wearing an orange jump suit and sitting in front of the IS black flag. He described the sweltering summer and frigid cold of winter, the decrepit conditions and torture.
He spoke of joining a caravan of hundreds of ISIS fighters while being transported to his next prison, describing it as a scene out of the apocalyptic movie Mad Max.
In February 2014, he was moved to the ‘Oil Facility’ outside Raqqa, where several of the Americans were moved. He was packed into a cell with 18 prisoners, where they had to defecate in buckets because they were only allowed out twice a day to use a toilet. The guards would slam on the door to hurry them along. He recalled a day the Beatles removed one hostage from the cell, then returned three days later to show the other prisoners a picture on his iPad of the man’s bloodied head with a bullet hole.
When prisoners were released, the Beatles would send a parting message by brutally beating cellmates in front of them, threatening to kill remaining hostages if ransom demands weren’t met, or if they spoke to the government or media. Wanting to avoid inflaming the terrorists, Elias chose not to speak to the press upon his release in April 2014.