They were nicknamed the “Beatles” by their hostages, because of their English accent. Two jihadists from the Islamic State organization were transferred on Wednesday (October 7th) to the United States, where they will stand trial for the hostage-taking and murder of several journalists and foreign aid workers.
Captured in January 2018 by Kurdish forces in Syria, Alexanda Kotey, 36, and El Shafee El-Sheikh, 32, were placed under the control of the US military in October 2019 in Iraq, due to the offensive Turkish in northern Syria. The two men, deprived of their British nationality, “Will soon land in the United States”John Demers, head of national security issues at the US Department of Justice, told a press conference.
The two men will be brought before a federal judge in Alexandria, near Washington, on Wednesday, who will detail the charges against them: hostage-taking, gang killings and supporting a terrorist enterprise. “They were the ringleaders of a brutal group responsible for the hostage-taking of European and American citizens, in particular, from 2012 to 2015”, according to the indictment passed by a grand jury in Alexandria Federal Court.
During this time, their group abducted several foreigners, tortured and beheaded some captives, and often portrayed their ordeal in propaganda videos. Among their victims are four Americans: journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, killed in 2014, and aid workers Kayla Mueller and Peter Kassig.
The families of the latter welcomed in a statement “A first step in the quest for justice”. These four young Americans “Saw the suffering of the Syrian people and wanted to help, either by providing humanitarian aid or by letting the world know about the developments in the crisis in Syria”, they stressed.
No death penalty
The United States had filed in 2015 a request for mutual legal assistance to the British authorities to obtain evidence against the thirty-something. But London had taken a break in 2018 in this cooperation.
The British government was then met with a shower of criticism for failing to demand that they be spared the death penalty if they were tried, a departure from its principled opposition to capital punishment. At the end of August, the United States finally assured that it would spare the death penalty for the two jihadists, and British justice had been able to endorse mutual legal assistance. In the process, the requested evidence could be transmitted to the United States.
Another member of this jihadist cell, Mohammed Emwazi, nicknamed “Jihadi John”, who distinguished himself by appearing all dressed in black, butcher’s knife in hand, on propaganda videos, was killed in a US bombing raid on Syria in November 2015. The fourth “Beatle” remains imprisoned in Turkey.
Besides the Americans, members of this group also executed Briton David Haines, an aid worker beheaded in 2014 after being detained for eighteen months.