British Islamic State terrorists called ‘The Beatles’ captured in Syria and being extradited to the US
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The men, believed to be Britons El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey, were removed as Turkey launched an assault on the Syrian Kurdish forces — with which the US partnered to combat Islamic State — sparking fears that the offensive could lead to captured fighters they held escaping and reconstituting the group.
“I can confirm that we’ve taken custody of two high-value ISIS individuals from the SDF (Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces),” a US defence official said on the condition of anonymity.
“They have been moved out of Syria and are in a secure location.
“They are being held in military custody pursuant to the law of war.”
Both Elsheikh and Kotey face the possibility of the death sentence if they are found guilty by a US court.
US media reports identified the two as part of the extremely violent all-British four-man cell that kidnapped and tortured foreigners, including journalists, at the height of Islamic State’s power in Syria and Iraq.
Another member was killed in a drone strike and the fourth is imprisoned on terror charges in Turkey.
Their cell is accused of abducting and decapitating around 20 hostages including American journalist James Foley, who was beheaded in 2012.
US President Donald Trump called the pair the “worst of the worst” in a tweet, where he also proclaimed the US removed them due to security concerns.
Mr Trump had earlier said the US was taking steps to prevent the potential escape of particularly dangerous IS fighters amid the Turkish offensive.
“We are taking some of the most dangerous ISIS fighters out and we’re putting them in different locations where it’s secure,” Mr Trump said.
“We have taken a certain number of ISIS fighters who are particularly bad and we’ve wanted to make sure nothing happened to them with respect to getting out.”
The move addressed one of the most worrisome issues of Trump’s green light to Turkey to invade Syria, where the Kurds, a longtime US partner, are viewed as a terror threat by Ankara, a NATO ally of Washington.
The SDF have been holding prisoner some 10,000 captured Islamic State group fighters, which includes around 2,000 of foreign nationality.
Mr Trump said the Kurds are still guarding many of the Islamic State group militants, but also said Turkey will be responsible for them.
“If the Kurds don’t watch, Turkey will watch. They don’t want those people out any more than we do,” Mr Trump said.