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A freed Islamic State (IS) hostage
has revealed how he shared a cell
with all four men beheaded by the
militants in sickening filmed murders.
French journalist Nicholas Henin
was captured by jihadists in Syria
last year and spent nine months
in cramped cells alongside other
westerners — including James Foley,
Steven Sotloff, David Haines and
Other cell-mates included John
Cantlie and Peter Kassig — both
of whom the militants have since
paraded and threatened with murder
in chilling propaganda videos.
Despite being released in April, Mr
Henin said he still does not feel free
of the horrors of his time in captivity
— a nd the murders of his former
cell-mates brought back “brutal”
Mr Henin told ITV News he spent
every minute of every day with his
cell-mates, sharing every aspect of
their lives, and the men became close
Henin said that the prisoners he
became closest to over the nine
months were murdered British aid
workers David Haines and Alan
“Alan Henning was someone who
was a total innocent,” he said. “ He
didn’t go to make any money. Alan
was a kind of teddy bear. Always
willing to help the others. Giving his
“’He decided one day to just give it,
to dedicate to the others and these
others were a bunch of Muslim
friends who wanted, who started this
action in Syria and he told us: ‘I was
the only non-Muslim among these
people but they were all my friends’.”
Mr Haines, he said, had left the
RAF “because he was fed up ... and
he dedicated himself to humanitarian
action. These people ... I find it really
immoral to have killed them”.
Henin said the cell he shared with
fellow prisoners was so small that the
hostages were forced to keep fit by
running on the spot.
He also said described how a
number of hostages converted to
Islam as they felt religion would
help them cope with the horrors of
captivity at the hands of the so-called
Among these converts was Peter
Kassig — the American citizen
threatened by the militant known
as Jihadi John at the end of the
sickening footage Alan Henning’s
Mr Henin said the 26-year-old’s
conversion to Islam was utterly
sincere — not an effort to secure
release or special treatment — and
he reported seeing him practising
the religion “as much as he could” by
praying and fasting for Ramadan.
“ When we are first put in the same
cell, he told me that he converted at
a very early stage in captivity because
religion and faith has always been
very important to him,” Mr Henin
said, calling Kassig by his adopted
Islamic name Abdul-Rahman.
He thought Islam would give
him the strength to deal with the
difficulties of this captivity.
Another fellow-prisoner Mr Henin
came across was British journalist
John Cantlie, who has since appeared
in a number of staged propaganda
videos on behalf of IS.
Cantlie’s so-called “lectures” involve
him being forced to read anti-western
statements from a script while being
filmed by his captors.
Mr Henin said: “I am optimistic
that the lectures the captors asked
(Cantlie) to deliver will be a way for
him to pay for his life. I hope his
captors understand what a good guy
The memories of his time as a
prisoner of IS have proven incredibly
difficult for the journalist to shake,
not least because he still has many
friends whose lives remain in the
“ Normally when you are held
hostage, the moment of your release
you are free. I am not,” he said.
“My mind is still somewhere in
a cell in Syria and I can very much
wake up to the news that one of my
former cell-mates having been killed
and this brings me back months
before. It is very brutal.”
However, Mr Henin understands
he is one of the lucky few to been
freed, saying he cannot begin to
comprehend the turmoil experienced
by other hostages’ families.
“ To see people taken off the cell to
be killed must be extremely hard to
them,” he said.
“ Families always suffer even more
than the hostages themselves. The
worst thing is not to know anything,
and not to be able to do anything.
Families deser ve a lot of respect and
compassion.” — AP
Ex-hostage tells of sharing cell with decapitated men
American journalist James Foley before his beheading in a video posted on the internet by Islamic State militants.
Sweden beefed up its military
presence in the Stockholm archipelago
yesterday to scour its waters for “foreign
under water activity”, a mobilisation of
Swedish ships, troops and helicopters
unseen since the Cold War.
The search in the Baltic Sea less than
50km from Stockholm began on Friday
and reawakened memories of the final
years of the Cold War when Sweden
repeatedly hunted suspected Soviet
submarines along its coast with depth
There is now increasing tension with
Russia among the Nordic and Baltic
states — most of them European Union
members — over Moscow’s involvement
in the Ukraine crisis. Finland last week
accused the Russian navy of interfering
with a Finnish environmental research
vessel in international waters.
The Swedish military has said
information about suspicious activity
came from a trustworthy source, without
providing details, and that more than
200 military personnel were involved in
The Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet,
citing unidentified sources with
knowledge of the hunt, said it began
after a radio transmission in Russian on
an emergency frequency.
Further encrypted radio traffic from
a point in the archipelago and the
enclave of Kaliningrad, home to the
Russian Baltic fleet ’s headquarters,
was intercepted on Saturday after the
Swedish search started, the newspaper
The Russian Defence Ministry said
overnight that there were no emergency
situations in the Baltic involving its
“Russian Navy ships and submarines
are fulfilling their duties in the world
ocean waters in accordance with the
plan,” Interfax news agency quoted a
ministry spokesman as saying. “ There
has been and there are no extraordinary,
let alone emergency, situations involving
Countries in the Baltic Sea region have
become increasingly wary of Russia’s
military ambitions since Moscow
annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region in
March following the overthrow of Kiev ’s
pro-Moscow president by protesters.
Last month, Sweden said two Russian
warplanes entered its air space, calling
the intrusion a “serious violation”
and sending a protest to Moscow ’s
ambassador in the Nordic country.
Ships, helicopters and troops from
an amphibious unit as well as the
home guard combed the search area
in Stockholm’s archipelago. The forces
include HMS Visby, a cor vette that has
stealth technology and equipment for
anti-submarine warfare. — Reuters
Swedish minesweeper vessels patrol the Stockholm Archipelago overnight,
searching for what the military says is a foreign threat in the waters.
Nepalese teams have rescued 34
more trekkers and guides stranded
in the Himalayas since a snowstorm
struck five days ago but have also
found 12 more bodies, officials say.
Rescuers using helicopters found
the bodies buried in the highly
popular Annapurna Circuit trekking
route hit by the storm, with the total
number of those confirmed or feared
dead put at 40.
out today to the affected areas in
Mustang, Manang and Dolpa. We
have rescued 34 since morning,”
police official Pradeep Bhattarai said
They include 17 Nepalese, 10
Germans, five Swedes and two
The Australian Department of
Foreign Affairs confirmed that
“several” Australians had been
rescued in the deadly snowstorm but
there were no reports of casualties so
The Trekking Agencies’ Association
of Nepal said rescuers pressed on
with their search for bodies that they
had seen from the air but had so far
been unable to retrieve.
Three bodies were found earlier and
another nine — all Nepalese support
staff for trekkers — late in the day on
different sections of the circuit, the
association’s Ramesh Dhamala said.
Searchers were taking advantage of
good weather but efforts were being
hampered by the fact that snow was
turning to ice, making it difficult to
free trapped bodies.
“ We are scanning areas at higher
altitude today, coordinating with
local officials to identify areas where
remaining trekkers might be found,”
Searches would resume today to
retrieve more bodies along with any
more sur vivors, he said.
Nepal has pledged to set up a
weather warning system after the
snowstorm caught trekkers unaware
as they heading to an exposed high
mountain pass on the circuit.
Police have said 483 trekkers,
guides and others have been rescued
since operations started on Thursday,
including 292 foreigners.
The disaster follows Mount
Everest ’s deadliest avalanche that
killed 16 guides in April on the
world’s highest peak and forced an
unprecedented shutdown of it.
Himalayan death toll reaches 40
Functioning human intestine has
been grown from stem cells in the
laboratory, paving the way to new
treatments for gut disorders.
Scientists first created tissue
fragments called organoids that were
transplanted into mice, where they
matured. Each animal produced
“significant ” amounts
functional human intestine.
United States lead
Dr Michael Helmrath, from the
Intestinal Rehabilitation Programme
at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital,
yesterday said: “This provides a new
way to study the many diseases and
conditions that can cause intestinal
failure, from genetic disorders
appearing at birth to conditions that
strike later in life, such as cancer
and Crohn’s disease. These studies
also advance the longer-term goal
of growing tissues that can replace
damaged human intestine.”
The organoids were generated
from induced pluripotent stem cells
(iPSCs) — stem cells created by
genetically altering adult skin cells,
causing them to revert to an immature
embryonic state. Like stem cells taken
from early stage embryos, iPSCs have
the ability to become any type of tissue
in the body.
The fragments were grafted on to the
kidneys of mice to provide them with
a necessary blood supply.
The cells then grew and multiplied
on their own. The mice used were
genetically engineered so their
immune systems would accept human
tissues. In the shorter term, the work
is more likely to accelerate drug
development and progress towards
personalised medicine. — PA
Working intestine grown in lab
People found guilty of internet “trolling”
in Britain could be jailed for up to two
years under government proposals
outlined overnight, following a number
of high-profile cases of abusive and
threatening behaviour on Twitter.
Justice secretary Chris Grayling told
the Daily Mail newspaper: “ This is a
law to combat cruelty — and marks our
determination to take a stand against a
There has been increasing concern
in Britain about the growing scourge
of internet “trolls” who post hate-
filled messages on social media, often
threatening their targets.
The parents of missing girl Madeleine
McCann are among the most recent
victims, and last month a man was
jailed for 18 weeks for what prosecutors
described as “a campaign of hatred ”
against a female lawmaker.
“These internet trolls are cowards who
are poisoning our national life. No-one
would permit such venom in person, so
there should be no place for it on social
media,” Grayling said.
“That is why we are determined
to quadruple the current six-month
Victims have long been calling for
police and prosecutors to take on-line
abuse more seriously and lawyers had
anticipated an increase in sentences for
those convicted of trolling.
“There is a public interest in having
people put away for a long time,” Chris
Holder, of London law firm Bristows,
said earlier this month.
“It is putting someone in fear of their
life and fear of physical harm. I think the
law will develop and the sentences will go
up and up.”
However, some lawyers and freedom
of speech campaigners have warned that
criminal sanctions should be the last
resort. “Do we want to criminalise every
social conduct that we find problematic?”
Barbora Bukovska, a senior director at
campaign group ARTICLE 19, said
earlier this month. — AFP
Internet trolls face jail
A comet from the outer reaches of the
solar system today made a rare, close pass
by Mars where a fleet of robotic science
probes were poised for studies.
Comet Siding Spring passed just
140,000km from Mars, less than half the
distance between Earth and the moon
and 10 times closer than any known
comet has passed by Earth, Nasa said.
The comet, named for the Australian
obser vatory that discovered it last year, is
believed to be a first-time visitor to the
inner solar system, having departed the
Oort Cloud, located beyond Neptune’s
orbit, more than a million years ago.
Comets are believed to be frozen
remnants left over from the formation
of the solar system some 4.6 billion years
ago. “ This comet is on its way plunging
in toward the sun, growing a tail,”
astronomer David Grinspoon, with the
Planetary Science Institute in Tucson,
Arizona, said during a live webcast of the
comet ’s flyby on Slooh.com.
The comet made its closest approach
to Mars hurling at about 203,000kph.
Robotic eyes on comet passing Mars
German intelligence has accused
pro-Russian rebels of shooting
down a Malaysian passenger jet over
Ukraine using missiles captured
from government forces, a media
report said today.
Kiev and the west have previously
charged that Malaysia Airlines
Flight MH17 was blown out of
the sky in July by separatist fighters
using a BUK surface-to-air system
supplied by Russia, charges denied
But the head of Germany ’s
BND foreign spy agency Gerhard
Schindler said intelligence indicated
the rebels had captured a BUK
system from a Ukrainian base and
fired a missile that exploded directly
next to the plane, Spiegel magazine
The Amsterdam-Kuala Lumpur
flight crashed on July 17 as it flew
over rebel-held territory in eastern
Ukraine, killing all 298 people on
board, 153 of them D utch.
Schindler said Russian claims
the missile was fired by Ukrainian
soldiers and that a Ukrainian fighter
jet was flying close to the Malaysia
Airlines plane were false, according
to Spiegel. He also said Ukrainian
photos had been “manipulated”,
the magazine reported but did
not elaborate on what the pictures
showed, or who had provided them.
Andrei Purgin, deputy prime
minister of the self-proclaimed
immediately rubbished the claim.
“These accusations against us are
without any basis,” he told Russia’s
Interfax news agency, adding that
such missiles could “only be fired by
American intelligence officials
had in July said that the plane could
have been shot down mistakenly by
ill-trained separatists. “ The former
miners who are today defending their
country do not have the expertise to
operate such a sophisticated system,”
he added. — AFP
The world’s first ever copulating
couple did it sideways in Scotland.
This historic contribution by
Scottish fish to the origin of sex
was discovered by an Australian
palaeontologist after being handed
a box of fossils in Estonia last year.
Flinders University’s John Long
said it was not every day you
discover something really big in
“Like the origin a certain kind of
behaviour, the origin of copulation,”
Prof Long told journalists.
Sexual intercourse evolved in
our earliest vertebrate ancestors,
armoured fish called placoderms,
about 385 million years ago, he said.
everything they know about
Microbrachius dicki’s sex life, with
pictures, in the journal Nature.
Until recently, placoderms
were thought to be a dead-end
group with no relevance to living
creatures, he said.
But they are a hot topic now that
research has shown many human
features such as jaws, teeth and
paired limbs, first originated with
this group of fishes.
“ Now, we reveal they gave us the
intimate act of sexual intercourse as
well,” Professor Long says.
connection after being given a
box of fossils at the University of
Technology in Tallinn late last
Microbrachius means little arms
but scientists had been baffled for
centuries by what their bony paired
arms were for.
He saw it was a clasper, to transfer
sperm to females, and that sent him
looking for more examples.
The females were found to have
small paired bones to lock the male
organs in place for mating, a bit like
velcro. — A AP
Sex started in Scotland, scientist says
MH17 ‘shot down with
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