“Strikes on ISIS are a trap,” he said.
A French journalist who was held hostage by ISIS for 10 months has spoken out against air strikes in Syria, saying they represent “a trap” for Britain and other members of the international community.
Nicolas Henin is author of Jihad Academy, The Rise of Islamic State.
Speaking in an interview with The Syria Campaign, Nicolas Henin put forward his strategy for combatting the militant group – a no-fly zone in opposition-held areas of Syria.
“What we have to do – and this is really key – is we have to engage the local people. As soon as the people have hope for a political solution, the Islamic State will just collapse.
“There will be a very easy way to make Isis lose ground at a high speed. The international community must decide all regions held by the Syrian opposition are no-fly zones.
“No-fly zones for everybody. Not the coalition, not the Russians, not the regime, nobody. Providing security for people [there] would be devastating for Isis. That’s what the international community should focus on.”
Mr Henin has previously spoken about how he was held for seven months in Syria itself, and how British national Mohammed Emwazi – known as Jihadi John – was among the jailors who subjected him to physical and psychological torture.
He added: “Why are we making so many mistakes? Why are people so misunderstanding [ISIS’s] vision?
“We are just fuelling our enemies and fuelling the misery and disaster for the local people.”
“While we are trying to destroy ISIS, what of the 500,000 civilians still living and trapped in Raqqa? What of their safety? What of the very real prospect that by failing to think this through, we turn many of them into extremists?
The priority must be to protect these people, not to take more bombs to Syria. We need no-fly zones – zones closed to Russians, the regime, the coalition. The Syrian people need security or they themselves will turn to groups such as ISIS.”
Henin is a freelance journalist who has worked in Iraq and Syria for most of his career. He was held by ISIS in an underground cell alongside other hostages including the American journalist James Foley, who was later executed.
Henin was freed following negotiations between the French government and his captors, and he has since written about the experience in a book entitled Jihad Academy, published in English last month.
“The winner of this war will not be the party that has the newest, the most expensive or the most sophisticated weaponry, but the party that manages to win over the people on its side.”
I know them: Bombing they expect. What they fear is unity, he added.