Washington: The U.S. Department of Justice said that two Islamic State militants known as the “Beetles” will arrive in the U.S. on Wednesday and face U.S. trial for allegedly participating in the beheading of American hostages in Syria.
File photo: The combined image shows Alexanda Kotey and Shafee Elsheikh in these undated distribution images of Amouda, Syria, released on February 9, 2018. Syrian Democratic Forces/Distributed through REUTERS
Since their arrest in 2019, the suspected militants Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh have been in military detention in the United States. They grew up in the UK and were British citizens, but the British government withdrew their nationality.
The pair are suspected of membership in a four-strong Islamic State cell known as the ‘Beatles’ because of their British accents. The group is alleged to have detained or killed Western hostages in Syria, including U.S. journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and aid workers Kayla Mueller and Peter Kassig.
“These charges are the product of many years of hard work in pursuit of justice for our citizens slain by ISIS. Although we cannot bring them back, we can and will seek justice for them, their families, and for all Americans,” Attorney General William P. Barr said in a statement.
In order to obtain the help of the British to obtain evidence about the couple, Barr agreed that US prosecutors would not require them to be sentenced to death under any circumstances, and that they would not be executed if they were sentenced to death.
National Security Assistant Attorney General John Demers said at a press conference that the two were held in Iraq by the U.S. military for about a year and are now being detained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
“As for their ringleader, Mohamed Emwazi (infamously known as Jihadi John), he faced a different type of American resolve – the mighty reach of our military, which successfully targeted him in an airstrike several years ago,” Demers said.
FBI Director Christopher Wray said that the Islamic State is still trying to anger people in the United States and other regions.
“Their goal is to motivate people to launch attacks against Western targets wherever they are, using any means available,” Wray said.
Lai and Demers said that the support of the British government is essential to advance investigations and prosecutions.
The families of Foley, Kassig, Mueller and Sotloff welcomed the news.
“James, Peter, Kayla and Steven were kidnapped, tortured, beaten, starved, and murdered by members of the Islamic State in Syria,” they said in a joint statement.
“Now our families can pursue accountability for these crimes against our children in a U.S. court.”
If convicted, Kotey and Elsheikh could face life imprisonment. Officials said the two men are expected to appear in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia on Wednesday afternoon.