Islamic State ‘Beatles’ admit role in beating American hostages
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- Islamic State ISIS is an Islamic extremist terrorist organization controlling territory in Iraq...[+]
Two British jihadists who were part of an Islamic State quartet nicknamed “Beatles” have for the first time admitted their involvement in the mistreatment of Western hostages, including Kayla Mueller, the American aid worker.
Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh said they were “liaisons” to Western hostages who were tortured and killed in Syria, among them Mueller, who the US State Department believes was repeatedly raped by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the then IS leader.
“I took an email from her myself,” Elsheikh, 32, said in an interview obtained by NBC and published on Thursday. “She was alone, I saw she was very scared.”
“She was in a room by herself that no one would go in,” the 36-year-old Kotey said.
The two men previously denied ever meeting Mueller, whom IS held for 18 months before her death in 2015.
“Who? Remind me,” Elsheikh said when asked by the BBC in 2018 if he had met the aid worker.
“Didn’t meet any foreign non-Muslims,” Kotey said.
The men were captured in Syria in 2018 by Kurdish fighters and now admit to having beaten Western hostages. The hostages nicknamed their captors the “Beatles” because of their British accents.
“I never denied that they was [sic] ever hit,” Kotey said. After previously declining to talk about their role in the quartet, the men said they acted as “liaisons” between the hostages and their families, demanding millions of dollars in ransom payments.
The pair is currently in legal limbo, held in Iraq by American forces who are seeking to prosecute them in a US court. They were stripped of their British citizenship but in March the Supreme Court ruled that evidence gathered by British investigators should only be admitted to a US trial if the death penalty was not sought.
US and British authorities agree that the “Beatles” were responsible for 27 killings, including the beheadings of British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning, and Americans James Foley, Steven Sotloff and Peter Kassig.
Mohammed Emwazi, the gang’s ringleader – dubbed Jihadi John – was killed in an airstrike in Syria in 2015. A fourth member, Aine Davis, a British Muslim convert, was jailed in Turkey on terrorism charges.
The families of the murdered American hostages believe prosecuting Kotey and Elsheikh in the US is their best chance for justice.
“Like any grieving relatives, we want to know the full truth about what happened to our loved ones, and we want to see our children’s murderers held accountable,” they wrote in an op-ed in The Washington Post. “These things can happen only if the suspects are put on trial before a jury in an American court of law.”
Mueller’s parents fear the two men will receive a lenient sentence if the UK prosecutes them. “I don’t think anything should be taken off the table,” Marsha Mueller told NBC, referring to capital punishment.
According to the US State Department, Kotey probably “engaged in the group’s executions and exceptionally cruel torture methods, including electronic shock and waterboarding”.
He also acted as an IS recruiter, responsible for several other UK nationals joining the terrorist group, it said.
Elsheikh travelled to Syria in 2012 and joined al-Qaeda before switching allegiance to IS. The State Department said Elsheikh “earned a reputation for waterboarding, mock executions and crucifixions while serving as an IS jailer”.
The pair still deny these allegations but Mueller’s parents believe the men did worse than what they now admit to. Investigators working with the family also believe the pair knows more than they have let on and could provide details about the whereabouts of Mueller’s body, which – like the other victims of the group of four – has not been discovered.
“They’re admitting that they were there,” her father, Carl Mueller, told NBC. “Of course they’re not going to tell the dark side of the story.”