Isis ‘Beatles’ face lifetime in prison over American hostages' deaths

Danielle Zoellner
·3-min read
Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh were charged by the US Justice Department on Wednesday for their alleged crimes against American citizens ( )
Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh were charged by the US Justice Department on Wednesday for their alleged crimes against American citizens ( )

The US Justice Department has announced two alleged Islamic State militants could face a lifetime in prison after they were served an eight-count indictment over the torture and beheadings of four American citizens.

Former British citizens Alexanda Kotey, 36, and El Shafee Elsheikh, 32, are half of an Isis cell nicknamed the “Beatles” for their accents. The cell is accused of jailing Western citizens and playing a role in their torture and beheading.

The Justice Department announced on Wednesday the transfer of Kotey and Elsheikh to the US so they could be prosecuted in an American court for their alleged abuse and murder of American citizens.

They are expected to appear in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, later on Wednesday.

An 8-count indictment against the pair include charges of conspiracy to commit hostage taking that resulted in death, four counts of hostage taking resulting in death, and conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists resulting in death.

Kotey and Elsheikh allegedly worked as guards and interpreters in the Isis cell, and their work included mentally and physically abusing four American citizens: James Wright Foley, Kayla Jean Mueller, Steven Joel Sotloff, and Peter Edward Kassig.

“These men will now be brought before a United States court to face justice for the depraved acts alleged against them in the indictment,” US Assistant Attorney General John Demers said during a press conference on Wednesday.

Mr Demers noted that the alleged ringleader of the “Beatles”, Mohamed Emwazi (known as Jihadi John), faced “a different type of American resolve”.

Emwazi was hit and killed by a drone attack in Raqqa, Syria, by the US military in November 2015. His death was later confirmed in January 2016.

Mr Demers added: “If you harm an American, you will receive the same fate as these men .. you will face American justice in an American court room and the project of many years in an American prison … you will be pursued until the end of the Earth.”

The fourth man allegedly in the Isis group is Aine Davis, who is currently imprisoned in Turkey on terrorism charges. His extraction to the US remains unlikely amid the deteriorating relationship between Turkey and the US.

Kotey and Elsheikh could face a lifetime in prison if found guilty for the counts against them.

“These charges are the product of many years of hard work in pursuit of justice for our citizens slain by Isis,” Attorney General William Barr said in a statement. “Although we cannot bring them back, we can and will seek justice for them, their families, and for all Americans.”

The US confirmed it would not pursue the death penalty for Kotey and Elsheikh in an effort to work alongside the UK in prosecuting the two alleged global terrorists.

The militants have been in US military custody since they were captured abroad in 2019. They grew up in Britain and had citizenship, but the British government withdrew their citizenship following the accusations against each man.

The families of Mr Foley, Ms Mueller, Mr Sotloff, and Mr Kassig celebrated the news of the charges against the two “Beatles” in a joint statement.

“James, Peter, Kayla, and Steven were kidnapped, tortured, beaten, starved, and murdered by members of the Islamic State in Syria,” the statement read. “Now our families can pursue accountability for these crimes against our children in a US court.”

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