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“Islamic State’s Beatle” faces life imprisonment for killing US hostages

#Islamic #States #Beatle #faces #life #imprisonment #killing #hostages

A member of Islamic State’s notorious kidnapping and murder squad known as the “Beatles” is due to be tried in a US court on Friday in the deaths of four American hostages in Syria.

El Shafee Elsheikh, 34, faces life in prison after being convicted in April in Alexandria, Virginia, of taking hostages, conspiring to murder US citizens and supporting a terrorist organization.

The grueling two-week trial of the former British citizen, which included emotional testimony from former hostages and victims’ parents, was the most significant prosecution of an IS fighter in the United States.

The 12-member federal jury deliberated for less than six hours for two days before finding Elsheikh guilty for his role in the deaths of four Americans – journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and aides Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller.

Elsheikh and another former “Beatle”, Alexanda Amon Kotey, were captured by a Kurdish militia in Syria in January 2018 and handed over to US forces in Iraq.

They were flown to the United States in 2020 to appear in court.

Kotey, 38, pleaded guilty in September 2021 and was sentenced to life in prison in April by US District Judge TS Ellis, who will also announce the sentence against Elsheikh on Friday.

Another suspected ‘Beatle’, Aine Davis, 38, was deported from Turkey to the UK last week and remanded in custody on terrorism charges.

The fourth Beatle, hangman Mohammed Emwazi, was killed by a US drone in Syria in 2015.

Raised in London and radicalized, the kidnappers were nicknamed “Beatles” by their prisoners because of their distinctive British accent.

They were active in Syria from 2012 to 2015 and are accused of kidnapping more than two dozen journalists and aid workers from the United States and other countries.

Ten former European and Syrian hostages testified at Elsheikh’s trial, alleging months of brutal treatment of the “Beatles”, including beatings, electric shocks, waterboarding and mock executions.

Foley, Sotloff and Kassig were beheaded by Emwazi and videos of their deaths were released by IS for propaganda purposes.

Mueller was initially held by the “Beatles” but later handed over to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who reportedly raped her repeatedly.

ISIS announced Mueller’s death in February 2015. The group said they were killed in a Jordanian airstrike, a claim disputed by US authorities.

Baghdadi died in a US special forces raid in 2019.

Ahead of Elsheikh’s sentencing, British police on Wednesday revealed details of years of efforts to identify and bring the kidnappers to justice.

Richard Smith, the head of the London Police Counter-Terrorism Unit, likened it to “putting together very small pieces of a jigsaw puzzle” and “following a trail of breadcrumbs”.

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