VIRGINIA. — Two British Islamic State militants accused of belonging to a terrorist cell that beheaded hostages in Syria are facing federal charges in the United States for their alleged role in the torture and killing of four Americans.
Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh face eight criminal counts, including conspiracy, hostage taking resulting in death, and material support to a terrorist organization. The men were expected to make their initial appearance in federal court in Virginia yesterday.
Kotey and Elsheikh are accused of playing a leading role in a notorious Islamic State cell that kidnapped, tortured and–in some cases–beheaded hostages on camera. They face charges for their alleged role in the kidnapping and deaths of four Americans: journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and aid workers Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller.
The group comprised four British militants who were given the nickname “The Beatles” by their captives because of their English accents.
“Today is a good day, but it is also a solemn one,” Assistant Attorney General John Demers said in announcing the charges. “Today, we remember four innocent Americans whose lives were taken by ISIS.”
In a statement, the families of the four American victims welcomed the indictment against Kotey and Elsheikh.
“James, Peter, Kayla and Steven were kidnapped, tortured, beaten, starved, and murdered by members of the Islamic State in Syria,” they said. “Now our families can pursue accountability for these crimes against our children in a U.S. court.”
According to the indictment, Kotey and Elsheikh both left their homes in London in 2012 and traveled to Syria, where they joined Islamic State and fought in its ranks.
They eventually became part of an ISIS cell that was responsible for detaining foreign hostages, including the four Americans.
The militants tortured the captives both physically and psychologically, the indictment says, subjecting them to a range of abuse, including mock executions, electric shocks and beatings.
Mueller, who was taken captive in August 2013, was held at the same facility as the three American men, but in a different cell. Court papers say she was sexually abused and raped by ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
The cell’s leader was Mohammed Emwazi, a British national who became known as “Jihadi John.” He appeared in the graphic videos Islamic State released showing the beheadings of Foley, Sotloff and Kassig as well as British and Japanese citizens. — NPR.