Jury convicts ISIS ‘Beatles’ for role in hostage-taking scheme that resulted in the deaths of US, UK and Japanese citizens | USAO-EDVA
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A federal jury has convicted a militant fighter of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a foreign terrorist organization, of the eight counts brought against him in the United States relating to his participation in a brutal hostage-taking scheme that resulted in the deaths of four American citizens, as well as the deaths of British and Japanese nationals, in Syria.
According to the evidence presented at the trial through the testimony of 35 witnesses, from November 2012 to February 7, 2015, former British citizen El Shafee Elsheikh, 33, served as a high-ranking ISIS fighter and was part of a larger conspiracy. involving the captivity of 26 hostages in Syria. Elsheikh personally participated in the holding and hostage negotiations of four US citizens – James Wright Foley, Kayla Jean Mueller, Steven Joel Sotloff and Peter Edward Kassig – each of whom died hostage in ISIS custody. In addition, Elsheikh personally participated in the detention and hostage negotiations of British, French, Italian, Danish, German, Spanish, Swedish, Belgian, Swiss and New Zealand nationals.
According to the evidence presented during the trial, Elsheikh and two other ISIS operatives oversaw the terror organization’s prisons and detention centers in which the hostages were held. Elsheikh and his co-conspirators engaged in a protracted pattern of physical and psychological violence against the hostages which was aimed at subduing the hostages. These actions also sought to coerce the victims’ family members and their governments to pay large monetary ransoms for their release, in addition to coercing the US government and other governments to agree to other terms and conditions for return. the victims.
According to the evidence presented during the trial, in addition to physically and psychologically abusing the hostages, Elsheikh and his co-conspirators participated in forcibly exposing the hostages to the murder of other hostages held by ISIS, including including a Russian hostage who was killed in or around February. 2014 and a Syrian prisoner who was executed in or around April 2014. After a group of European hostages were forced to witness the execution of the Syrian prisoner, Elsheikh and his co-conspirators returned the hostages to the prison where they were held along with the British hostages.
From August 2014 to October 2014, ISIS released videos depicting the beheadings of James Foley, Steven Sotloff, and British citizens David Haines and Alan Henning. In November 2014, ISIS released a video showing the decapitated head of Peter Kassig. In January 2015, ISIS released videos showing the decapitated body of Japanese citizen Haruna Yukawa and the beheading of Japanese citizen Kenji Goto. On or around February 7, 2015, Kayla Mueller’s family received an email from ISIS confirming Mueller’s death in Syria.
According to evidence presented during the trial, Elsheikh was part of a group of ISIS operatives who spoke with British accents and were referred to by the hostages as the “Beatles”. He and his convicted co-conspirator, Alexanda Amon Kotey, 38, were captured together in January 2018 by the Syrian Democratic Forces as they attempted to flee Syria for Turkey. Mohammed Emwazi, who led the aforementioned videotaped beheadings, was killed in November 2015 in a US military airstrike in Syria.
On September 2, 2021, Kotey pleaded guilty to all of the offenses charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia in the eight-count indictment, consisting of one count of conspiracy to commit a seizure. hostage resulting in death; four counts of hostage taking that resulted in the deaths of the four Americans (James Foley, Kayla Mueller, Steven Sotloff and Peter Kassig); one count of conspiracy to murder American citizens outside the United States; one count of conspiracy to provide material support or resources to terrorists resulting in the death of US, UK and Japanese nationals; and one count of conspiracy to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization, resulting in the deaths of US, UK and Japanese nationals. Kotey faces a mandatory life sentence and is expected to be sentenced on April 29, 2022. Valuable assistance has been provided by the Office of International Affairs at the Ministry of Justice and the UK Home Office.
Elsheikh faces a mandatory life sentence and is expected to be sentenced on August 12, 2022.
The United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia expresses its deep appreciation to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United Kingdom Metropolitan Police Service Counter Terrorism Command, the Syrian Democratic Forces, and our many overseas partners for their commitment dedicated to helping the United States seek justice for all victims of these crimes.
First Assistant United States Attorney Raj Parekh, Assistant United States Attorneys Dennis M. Fitzpatrick, John T. Gibbs, and Aidan Taft Grano-Mickelson, all of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia ; and trial attorney Alicia H. Cook of the Justice Department’s National Security Division are pursuing the case.
A copy of this press release can be found on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information can be found on the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia website or on PACER by searching for Case #1: 20-cr-239.