Islamic State 'Beatles' charged in US over hostage deaths

Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee ElsheikhImage copyright

Image caption

Alexanda Kotey (left) and El Shafee Elsheikh were captured by Syrian Kurdish forces

Two ex-British alleged Islamic State (IS) militants have been charged in the United States over the killing of four American hostages.

Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh are accused of belonging to an IS cell dubbed “The Beatles” involved in kidnappings in Iraq and Syria.

The pair are being held in FBI custody and will appear in a US federal court in Virginia later.

The men, previously in US military custody in Iraq, deny the charges.

It comes after the UK sent evidence to the US following assurances the two men will not face the death penalty.

They are alleged to have been members of an IS gang responsible for the death of hostages in Iraq and Syria in 2014.

The men were previously stripped of their UK nationality.

The victims – who included American journalists and UK and US aid workers – were beheaded and their deaths filmed and broadcast on social media.

Kotey and Elsheikh were part of the IS cell nicknamed by hostages after the 1960s pop group due to their British accents.

Another member, Mohammed Emwazi, known as “Jihadi John” died in a drone strike in 2016.

The US sought the UK’s help in the case but until recently a legal fight over the use of the death penalty hampered co-operation.

Last month, the US made clear Kotey and Elsheikh would not be executed if found guilty.

Step towards closure

This is a huge development in this case.

These two Londoners were captured two years ago by Kurdish forces and handed over to US custody in Iraq, where they’ve been for the past 12 months.

They deny torturing and murdering hostages – but that is what they are accused of.

They are being brought to a US court in Virginia, near Washington DC.

Their appearance will come as a step towards closure for the families of those who were killed – in some cases beheaded in videos on social media – in Iraq and Syria.

IS once controlled 88,000 sq km (34,000 sq miles) of territory stretching from western Syria to eastern Iraq and imposed its brutal rule on almost eight million people.

The liberation of that territory exposed the magnitude of the abuses inflicted by the jihadist group, including summary killings, torture, amputations, ethno-sectarian attacks, rape and sexual slavery imposed on women and girls. Hundreds of mass graves containing the remains of thousands of people have been discovered.

UN investigators have concluded that IS militants committed acts that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.


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