October 07, 2020
Notorious Islamic State group fighters El Shafee Elsheikh (L) and Alexanda Kotey will not face the death penalty if placed on trial in the United States, according to US Attorney General Bill Barr. © Handout Syrian Democratic Forces/AFP File Photo
Two members of an Islamic State cell dubbed the “Beatles” accused of killing several Western hostages are to be brought to the United States on Wednesday to face charges, a Justice Department source said.
El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey are accused of involvement in the murders of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and aid workers Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller.
They are also believed to be responsible for the murders of two Britons, Alan Henning and David Haines.
They were stripped of their UK citizenship and have been in the custody of US forces in Iraq.
A two-year legal impasse was broken recently when US Attorney General Bill Barr said they would be spared the death penalty if convicted in the United States.
The families of Foley, Kassig, Sotloff and Mueller welcomed the report that the pair were being brought to the United States to face justice.
“James, Peter, Kayla and Steven were kidnapped, tortured, beaten, starved, and murdered by members of the Islamic State in Syria,” the families said in a joint statement. “Now our families can pursue accountability for these crimes against our children in a US court.”
“We are hopeful that the US government will finally be able to send the important message that if you harm Americans, you will never escape justice,” they said. “And when you are caught, you will face the full power of American law.”
The Justice Department unveiled an eight-count grand jury indictment against the pair charging them with various offenses including hostage-taking, conspiracy to commit murder and other charges.
Britain handed over evidence against the pair to the US authorities last month.
“It was determined by courts that it was legal for us to provide further info to the US authorities,” a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Wednesday. “We want justice to be done in this case.”
Kotey and Elsheikh’s four-member cell was dubbed the “Beatles” by their captives due to their British accents.
They tortured and killed victims, including by beheading, and the IS group released videos of the deaths for propaganda purposes.