Two Britons accused of being part of the ‘brutal’ IS cell known as ‘The Beatles’ appear in court

Two suspected British terrorists accused of being part of a “notoriously brutal” Islamic State cell known as “The Beatles” have appeared in court via video link in the US.

Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, both in their 30s and from west London, allegedly belonged to the cell of executioners in Syria – known as “The Beatles” because of their British accents.

Alexanda Kotey (left) and Shafee Elsheikh
Image:Alexanda Kotey (left) and Shafee Elsheikh are in FBI custody

John Demers, assistant attorney general for national security, had announced the charges against them during a news conference in the US on Wednesday.

He said: “The defendants are charged with terrorism offences related to hostage-taking and killing of four Americans, as well as citizens of Great Britain and Japan.”

Mr Demers added that he was “pleased” to confirm Kotey and Elsheikh are in FBI custody – meaning they can “face justice for the depraved acts alleged against them in the indictment”.

If convicted, they face life in prison.

Kotey and Elsheikh are said to be responsible for the deaths of a number of Western captives, including Britons Alan Henning and David Haines.

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Alan Henning
Image:Alan Henning was a 47-year-old aid worker from Lancashire

Mr Haines’ brother Mike said: “The pain we experienced as families was excruciating when we lost our loved ones, and the last three years have been a long, horrible waiting game.

“I, like the other families, am relieved that the fate of these two men is closer to being decided, but this is just the beginning.”

The pair are also accused of killing American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and aid workers Kayla Mueller and Peter Kassig. Their families also welcomed the charges.

“Now our families can pursue accountability for these crimes against our children in a US court,” they said in a statement.

James Foley was beheaded after being kidnapped in Syria
Image:James Foley was beheaded after being kidnapped in Syria

James Foley’s mother Diane told Sky News: “This feels miraculous in many ways and it’s thanks to the US government, the UK government and countless other pro bono attorneys and non-profits who have supported us and given us strength as families to pursue this first step in justice.

“It’s hugely important. At times I despaired it would ever happen.

“Hopefully these men will implicate others and give us information about where the remains of our children are.”

She said the trial would be “difficult” but said it was time for the world to know what “Jim and the others went through”.

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Death penalty not ‘best way for justice’

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted: “We welcome the transfer of the ISIS ‘Beatles’ to the United States to stand trial in a court of law.

“The United States will not rest until these alleged terrorists are held accountable for their crimes and justice is delivered to their victims’ families.”

The IS militant group is known for beheadings and the barbaric treatment of aid workers, journalists and other hostages in Syria.

Many of these executions were filmed and broadcast around the world in graphic detail.

The pair were captured by the Syrian Democratic Forces in January 2018 and transferred to the custody of the US military in Iraq in October 2019, remaining there ever since.

David Haines
Image:David Haines was beheaded in Syria in 2014 after being held prisoner for 18 months

Mr Haines, a 44-year-old former aircraft engineer and humanitarian from Perth in Scotland, was beheaded in Syria in 2014 after being held prisoner for 18 months.

Mr Henning, a 47-year-old aid worker from Lancashire, was also beheaded in 2014 after being captured by extremists in Syria.

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April 2018: ‘We don’t justify what IS did’

Kotey and Elsheikh were captured by the Syrian Democratic Forces in January 2018 and transferred to the custody of the US military in Iraq in October 2019, remaining in American custody ever since.

The cell’s ringleader was said to have been Mohammed Emwazi, known as Jihadi John, who was killed in a US airstrike in 2015.

The group’s fourth member, Aine Davis, was later jailed in Turkey.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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