The US Department of Justice said Wednesday that two alleged members of the once-famous hostage-taking cell of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS), dubbed the Beatles, had been brought to the United States and brought to trial.
36-year-old Alekzanda Amon Koti and 32-year-old El Shafi Elsheikh were extradited to the United States from Iraq, where they were held captive by the Americans for more than two years. Both terrorists were captured by Kurdish forces – US allies – in Syria in 2018 while trying to escape to Turkey.
US Attorney General William Barr in August assured British authorities that the United States would not seek the death penalty against Coty and Elsheikh, and the UK Supreme Court ruled that British authorities could pass information on suspects to American prosecutors. The extradition of Coti and Elsheikh, former British citizens, is an important moment in the long-term efforts of the American authorities to bring to justice the terrorists who committed the brutal murders of US citizens and filmed these massacres.
The families of four Americans killed by the Beatles terrorists – journalists James Foley and Stephen Sotloff, and humanitarian workers Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller – welcomed the start of the trial.
An eight-point indictment released Wednesday named Kochi and Elsheikh “leading players” in a cell that took citizens of the United States, Japan and the European Union hostage from 2012 to 2014.
The alleged Beatles ringleader Mohammed Emwazi, a British of Kuwaiti descent, was killed in a US drone attack in Syria in November 2015. Emwazi has been seen in several IS propaganda videos personally beheading American, European and Japanese hostages. The fourth member of the cell was subsequently arrested in Turkey, where he was convicted on terrorism charges.
Coty and Elsheikh appeared in federal court for the first time in Alexandria, Virginia on Wednesday. They were both charged on eight counts, including conspiracy to take hostages resulting in death, and conspiracy to kill US citizens abroad. If convicted, they face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
According to the indictment, Koti and Elsheikh, who moved to Syria in 2012, worked closely with IS’s chief spokesman, Abu Muhammad Al-Adnani, and met with him on several occasions to develop a hostage-taking scheme. Al-Adnani was killed in a 2016 US military airstrike.
Court documents state that the defendants kidnapped Foley and the British citizen, whose identity remains unknown, in November 2012. Sotloff and Müller were abducted by them in August 2013, and Kassig was captured two months later.
Throughout this time, Koti, Elsheikh and Emwazi monitored the places where the hostages were held and were responsible for their transfer from place to place, “participating in prolonged physical and psychological abuse,” the indictment says.
In addition, they sent emails to the families of American hostages to negotiate their release in exchange for large sums of money or the release of “Muslim prisoners.” In May and June 2014, Kayla Müller’s family received emails demanding the release from prison in the United States of Afya Siddiqi, a Pakistani neuroscientist convicted of attempting to kill Americans in Afghanistan, and $ 5.8 million in exchange for Müller’s release.
As a result, the ransom was never paid, and the terrorists executed the three hostages, filming their deaths and distributing them in their propaganda videos. According to prosecutors, former IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi raped Müller while she was being held captive by terrorists. Al-Baghdadi was killed during a US Special Forces operation in October 2019.
“Today we remember the victims of Jim Foley, Stephen Sotloff, Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller, and also think about their families, who suffered from these senseless acts of violence,” said FBI Director Christopher Ray. – These families suffered from the painful loss of their loved ones who fell at the hands of cruel killers; Today’s accusations demonstrate the FBI’s dedication and commitment to protecting human rights, as well as a commitment to do the justice they deserve. “