The Justice Department is preparing to announce charges against two men from Britain who joined the Islamic State and were part of a cell that beheaded Western hostages in Syria
WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is preparing to announce charges Wednesday against two men from Britain who joined the Islamic State and were part of a cell that beheaded Western hostages, a law enforcement official said.
They are expected to make their first court appearance in the afternoon in Alexandria, Virginia, said the official, who was not authorized to discuss the case publicly ahead of an official announcement.
El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey are two of four men dubbed “the Beatles” by the hostages they held captive because of their British accents. They are facing criminal charges in federal court.
Attorney General William Barr broke a diplomatic standoff earlier this year when he promised the men would not face the death penalty. That prompted British authorities to share evidence against the men that prosecutors deemed crucial for obtaining convictions.
In interviews while in detention, the two men admitted that they helped collect email addresses from Kayla Mueller that could be used to send out ransom demands. Mueller was killed in 2015 after 18 months in ISIS captivity.
The State Department described their conduct in terms not nearly so benign. The agency declared Elsheikh and Kotey as specially designated global terrorists in 2017 and accused them of holding captive and beheading approximately two dozen hostages, including American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and aid worker Peter Kassig.
Specifically, the State Department said Elsheikh “was said to have earned a reputation for waterboarding, mock executions, and crucifixions while serving as an ISIS jailer.”
Kotey, according to the State Department, acted as an Islamic State recruiter and “likely engaged in the group’s executions and exceptionally cruel torture methods, including electronic shock and waterboarding.”
The other two Beatles included the most infamous member of the group, Mohammed Emwazi, known as “Jihadi John,” who was killed in a 2015 drone strike. Emwazi appeared and spoke in the video of Foley’s execution. The fourth member, Aine Lesley Davis, was sentenced to 7 years in prison in Turkey in 2017.