Two ‘ISIS Beatles’ charged with deaths of Americans in Syria
By a Biometrica staffer
Two notorious Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militant detainees from Britain are expected to arrive in the US today to face federal charges over accusations that they jailed four American hostages and played a role in torturing and beheading them, according to a statement by the Department of Justice.
The two militants are former British nationals, and half of an ISIS cell of four Britons called “the Beatles” — a nickname bestowed by their victims because of their accents — who were known for their extreme brutality. Alexanda Amon Kotey, 36, and El Shafee Elsheikh, 32, are expected to make their initial appearances in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia this afternoon.
They were involved in the death of four Americans – journalists Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff, aid worker Peter Kassig, and human rights activist Kayla Mueller. The American government has linked the group to the kidnapping and abuse of more than two dozen hostages, some of whom were ultimately beheaded for propaganda videos.
Elsheikh apologized for his role in the “whole episode” last year when he and Kotey confessed to their parts in the ransoming of Western hostages in an interview with CNN. Kotey had declined to offer an apology but admitted to taking email addresses from European hostages and assisting in the ransom negotiations that followed with relatives and friends.
Justice Department officials and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray announced the men had been indicted on multiple charges, including hostage-taking resulting in death and conspiracy to commit murder outside the US, at a press conference. If convicted, the men could spend the rest of their lives in prison.
“These charges are the product of many years of hard work in pursuit of justice for our citizens slain by ISIS. Although we cannot bring them back, we can and will seek justice for them, their families, and for all Americans,” said Attorney General William P. Barr.
One of the other ISIS Beatles, Mohammed Emwazi, was the one who allegedly carried out the gruesome executions of the terror group’s victims. He was otherwise known as Jihadi John and was killed by a drone strike in November 2015.
The British extremists repeatedly beat the hostages they kept imprisoned in Raqqa, Syria, formerly the Islamic State’s self-declared capital, according to prosecutors. They subjected their hostages to abuses including waterboarding, mock executions, painful stress positions, food deprivation, beatings with sticks lasting 20 minutes or longer, chokeholds causing blackouts and electric shocks. They also forced their hostages to fight each other and to witness murders, the New York Times reported citing court papers.
From August 2014 through October 2014, ISIS released videos depicting Emwazi’s barbaric beheadings of Foley, Sotloff, and British citizens and aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning. In November 2014, ISIS released a video depicting the decapitated head of Kassig. In January 2015, ISIS released videos with images of two dead Japanese citizens. Mueller was sexually abused by the former “leader” of ISIS while she was held captive. Her family received an email confirming her death in early 2015, around February.
Kotey, Elsheikh, and Emwazi worked closely with Abu Muhammed al-Adnani, a former leading ISIS commander and chief media spokesperson. Until he was killed in a US military airstrike in August 2016, Adnani reported directly to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the former self-proclaimed leader of ISIS and the one responsible for sexually abusing Mueller. Baghdadi was killed during a US military operation in Syria in October 2019.
Kotey, Elsheikh, and Emwazi met repeatedly with Adnani concerning the hostage-taking scheme and other matters. Between November 2012 and February 2015, Kotey, Elsheikh, Emwazi, and other ISIS fighters committed acts inflicting pain, suffering, cruelty and mistreatment on American, British, and other hostages in captivity.
Throughout the captivity of the American hostages and others, Kotey, Elsheikh, and Emwazi allegedly supervised detention facilities holding hostages and were responsible for transferring hostages between detention facilities, in addition to engaging in a prolonged pattern of physical and psychological violence against hostages.
“We, along with our partners in the U.S. Government, remain steadfast in our duty to bring to justice those who have harmed our citizens — no matter where they are, and no matter how long it takes. I’m grateful to the men and women of the FBI, the victims’ families, and our domestic and international partners, for their tireless efforts to bring us to where we stand today with the prosecution of these men on U.S. soil,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray.
The indictment alleges that ISIS fighters also forcibly seized the following additional individuals: two United Kingdom citizens, an Italian citizen, a Danish citizen, a German citizen, four French citizens, three Spanish citizens, a New Zealand citizen, and a Russian citizen.