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Ex-Hostage Says Jewish Museum Attack Suspect Was Among Captors in Syria

Freed Journalist Describes Brussels Jewish Museum Center Shooter 1:32

A French journalist held hostage for months in Syria said on Saturday that one of his captors was a Frenchman suspected of killing four people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels in May. The reporter, Nicolas Henin, said he recognized Mehdi Nemmouche from video shown to him as part of an investigation. He did not elaborate on the nature of the probe, but mentioned that “a judicial procedure” had been launched while he was still a hostage.

“After the arrest of Mehdi Nemmouche I have been shown a few audovisual documents that allowed me to recognize him formally,” Henin, who was freed on April 20 along with three other French journalists, told a news conference. He said Nemmouche beat him. “After beating me up, he would show me his gloves. He was very proud of his motorcycle gloves. He told me he had bought them especially for me,” he said.

Nemmouche, 29, is in custody in Belgium over the May 24 shooting attack after being arrested in Marseille on May 30 and extradited in July. He is to appear before a Belgian court on Sept. 12. Henin spoke at the Paris offices of French weekly Le Point, which early on Saturday had published excerpts of a piece written by Henin in which he described Nemmouche as one of a group of French nationals who had moved in Islamic State circles in Syria.

Le Point said it had not initially planned to go public with Henin's information for fear of jeopardizing the safety of other hostages, but decided to go ahead when French daily Le Monde reported on Saturday morning that French intelligence identified Nemmouche as one of the captors of Western hostages in Syria.

Nemmouche's lawyer Apolin Pepiezep told Reuters on Saturday that his client was never asked during the five days he was questioned in France whether he had been to Syria or about his possible role as a captor. Henin and the three other French journalists — Didier Francois, Edouard Elias and Pierre Torres — spent 10 months in the hands of an extremist group in Syria. They had initially decided against speaking of their experience for fear of reprisals against other hostages.

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— Reuters

NBC News' Nancy Ing contributed to this report.