A former Islamic State hostage confirmed that beheaded journalist Steven Sotloff successfully concealed his religion and Israeli citizenship from his captors.
Pierre Torres, one of the French hostages released by the jihadis in April 2014, was held captive in Syria for 10 months alongside Sotloff and the other American and British hostages who were brutally beheaded.
Torres said he and the other ransomed European hostages were given 24 hours notice ahead of their release. During that time, Torres told journalist Tom Gross in an interview at the 2015 Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Sotloff entrusted Torres with personal messages for his family.
In the near-fluent English he learned from the American and British hostages during his imprisonment, Torres said Sotloff and other hostages “used me as a message carrier.”
Torres said he memorized these messages and the families’ names, emails and addresses. “The only way I could keep them with me was in my memory,” he said.
Gross, who spent three days with Torres last week, told The Times of Israel: “Pierre Torres confirmed to me that Steven Sotloff managed to conceal the fact that he was Jewish and had Israeli citizenship and had lived in Israel, from everyone — both his Islamic State captors and his fellow hostages.”
Torres told Gross that he and the other released European hostages only found out about it from news reports after Sotloff was executed.
American-Israeli freelance journalist Sotloff was kidnapped after crossing into Syria from Turkey on August 4, 2013, and executed in September 2013. The grandson of Holocaust survivors came to Israel in 2005 and completed undergraduate studies at the IDC — Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya
Sotloff wrote pieces for a variety of news outlets, including Israeli English-language media The Jerusalem Post and The Jerusalem Report. Sotloff’s family and friends oversaw the removal of his Israeli work from the Internet during his captivity to prevent his IS captors from discovering his Jewishness, fearing he would be additionally tortured for it.
In The Daily Mail, Gross reported that Torres said Sotloff was deeply knowledgable about politics, clever and brave.
“He was not afraid to answer back to our captors. He used to challenge them with what he saw as inconsistencies in their teaching and worldview. He also, I should add, won all the games of chess we played on the makeshift board we made out of a discarded milk carton,” said Torres.
Torres confirmed for Gross fellow French hostage Nicolas Henin’s identification of Mehdi Nemmouche as one of their captors. The French Islamist is on trial in Belgium for the murder of four Jews at Brussels’s Jewish museum last year.
At the Geneva Summit interview, Torres criticized the vast amounts of money the United States has spent on gathering intelligence.
“They didn’t do the job,” Torres said.
“It is not for me to judge whether the US and British governments should have paid a ransom for their hostages,” Torres told Gross. “I would only say that the US is spending a lot more money on outside intelligence than any European government and they did not do the job to get their hostages out. More should have been done, although it is not for me to say how.”
Last week, however, after the Sotloff family was informed of “Jihadi John’s” identity is Mohammed Emwazi, it released a statement via spokeman Barak Barfi that it has “full faith that the American intelligence community and law enforcement agencies will apprehend him.”
The family anticipates his prosecution and conviction.
“That is how American justice is served and that is why this nation will prevail over the evil forces that seek to deny us our way of life,” said Barfi.