ISIS prisoners were forced to sing “Hotel Osama” with lyrics referring to beheading, Geisel testifies at a Virginia terror trial

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

“It was terrifying for us, a joke for them,” said Nicolas Henin in Arlington, Virginia Trial of El Shafee Elsheikha 33-year-old former British citizen.

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

Henin is one of several former hostages who have testified in federal court against an alleged member of ISIS’s notorious kidnapping and murder squad known as the “Beatles.”

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

ALAIN JOCARD/AFP via Getty Images

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

“If you try, you’ll die Mr. Bigley style,” the lyrics said, a reference to British engineer Kenneth Bigley, who was arrested in 2004 by Jordanian Abu Musab Zarqawi, head of al-Qaeda’s terrorist network in Iraq , was decapitated.

Henin said he was arrested in June 2013 on his fifth reporting trip to Syria.

He was held alone in a bathroom for two days but managed to escape by breaking 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 IS fighters,” he said.

When he returned to captivity, he was beaten and taken outside and “hung in the air for a few hours” with his hands and feet chained together.

“Sure I will die”

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

British aid worker David Haines and Italian laborer Federico Motka arrived later.

After they were transferred to another prison, three guards who spoke with a British accent came one day.

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

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

They were later joined by Sotloff, Foley, John Cantlie, a British journalist arrested with Foley, Toni Neukirch, a German national, and five MSF staff members.

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

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

“I spent a long time with agencies, describing the location and providing details to the person in charge of preparing the raid,” Henin said.

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

“They were transferred before the operation,” said Robert Daniel Story, an FBI special agent who helped prepare the raid and took the stand after Henin.

“We were very disappointed,” Story said.

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 killed and videos of their killing were released by IS for propaganda purposes.

Peter Kassig


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

“Dad, I’m paralyzed here. I’m afraid to fight back. A 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 Dad, when I go down I will think of nothing but what I know to be true, that you and mom love me more than the moon!” wrote Peter Kassig.

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

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

They were turned over to US forces in Iraq and flown to Virginia in 2020, where they faced charges of taking hostages, conspiring to murder US citizens and supporting a foreign terrorist organization.

Kotey pleaded guilty in September 2021 and he faces life imprisonment.

“Beatles” executioner Mohamed Emwazi was killed by a US drone in Syria in 2015, while the fourth member of the cell, Aine Davis, is being held in Turkey after a terrorism conviction.

Elsheikh has denied the allegations and his lawyers claim his arrest was a case of mistaken identity.

The Associated Press contributed to the coverage.

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