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ISIS has become a popular alternative for Muslim youth because there is "nothing better on the market" available to them, according to French journalist and former hostage Nicolas Henin.
He describes the new recruits — who've helped build the terror network's ranks to about 31,000 fighters — as "lost guys."
"You know, 20 to 40 years ago, when a youngster wanted to rebel against his parents, he would say, 'Oh, you’re bothering me, and I’m going to Kathmandu and I’m going to smoke a joint,'" Henin told NBC News. "Nowadays, if youngsters want to rebel against their parents, they will just go to Syria to fight," he added.
Henin, who is promoting a new book about his captivity called, "Jihad Academy," was held from June 2013 to April 2014. His cellmates included American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning — all of whom were beheaded by ISIS last year. But Henin was released along with three other French journalists, although the conditions for their liberation weren't publicly known.
Henin told NBC News that he wrote the book to take a stance on how ISIS can be defeated and how he believes the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 helped to pave the way for the Islamist terror group's rise in Iraq and Syria.
And simply killing off ISIS fighters can't be the main option, Henin opined. "It’s costly, it’s dangerous and it may be even counterproductive because these people have the mythology of well, martyrdom," Henin said.
Instead, the West and its allies in the Middle East need to look at ways to stop the "lost guys" from wanting to become terrorists — and cut off ISIS at the recruitment stage.
"A key Syrian opponent told me just give the local people some hope and you will see, on that very same day, ISIS will lose half of its recruits," Henin added.