Justice Department officials on Wednesday announced charges against two British-born Islamic State militants accused of beheading American and European hostages who they had captured in Syria.
El Shafee Elsheikh, 32, and Alexanda Amon Kotey, 36, are two of four men dubbed “the Beatles” by the hostages they held captive because of their British accents. They are expected to make their first appearance in the afternoon in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia.
In an indictment released Wednesday, officials said that from 2012 to 2015, Kotey, Elsheikh, Mohamed Emwazi and an unidentified fourth British citizen participated in the abductions of Americans and Europeans in Syria. Emwazi, who was known as “Jihadi John,” died in a US drone strike in November 2015, according to BBC News. Justice Department officials said the fourth unnamed member of “the Beatles” is incarcerated in Turkey.
“The men also allegedly engaged in a prolonged pattern of physical and psychological violence against the hostages, including against American citizens James Wright Foley, Kayla Jean Mueller, Steven Joel Sotloff, and Peter Edward Kassig,” Justice Department officials said Wednesday in a statement.
The State Department designated Elsheikh and Kotey as global terrorists in 2017, saying that, as part of “the Beatles,” they held captive and beheaded about two dozen hostages, including American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and American aid worker Peter Kassig. Authorities said Wednesday that Elsheikh and Kotey were also responsible for the death of American aid worker Kayla Mueller, who was sexually abused and beheaded after being held captive by the militants for 18 months.
In a statement, relatives of Mueller, Foley, Sotloff and Kassig said the transfer “will be the first step in the pursuit of justice for the alleged horrific human rights crimes against these four young Americans.”
“We are hopeful that the U.S. government will finally be able to send the important message that if you harm Americans, you will never escape justice. And when you are caught, you will face the full power of American law,” the statement said.
Kotey and Elsheikh face charges of conspiracy to commit hostage taking resulting in death, hostage taking resulting in death, conspiracy to murder United States citizens outside of the United States, conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists resulting in death and conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization resulting in death.
If Kotey and Elsheikh are convicted of the charges, they face maximum sentences of life in prison.
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