ISIS ‘Beatles’ Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh took part in a sick London celebration of the appalling September 11 terror attacks – but were still able to travel to Syria to wage Jihad.
The two men, now facing justice in the US over the terror cell, were detained at the American embassy in the UK capital in September 2011.
But somehow they were able to slip through the watch of authorities to travel to Syria to join ISIS.
The anniversary protests were held by Muslims Against Crusades, which was a group set up by jihadi recruiter Omar Bakri Mohammed.
It was attended by Anjem Choudhary and Siddhartha Dhar, who went on to be known as Jihadi Sid when he too went abroad to the terror group.
The extraordinary details were revealed in the US indictment against Kotey and Elsheikh after they appeared in court after being flown to America.
It spelled out both the pair’s arrests and the fact they were ‘radicalised in London’.
Alexanda Kotey (right), 36, and El Shafee Elsheikh (left), 32, have been indicted on eight charges connected to the deaths of four US citizens, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday
The two’s final transport to the US was welcomed by families of some of the ‘Beatles’ victims.
They are accused by the State Department of murdering two dozen hostages including Americans James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller, and at least eight other hostages from different countries, including the UK.
Mike Haines, whose brother David Haines – a British aid worker – was captured and beheaded in 2014 by the most prominent member of the ‘Beatles’ terrorist cell, ‘Jihadi John’, welcomed news of the charges.
He said: ‘The pain we experienced as families was excruciating when we lost our loved ones, and the last three years have been a long, horrible waiting game.
‘I, like the other families, am relieved that the fate of these two men is closer to being decided but this is just the beginning.’
Diane Foley, mother of American victim James Foley, told Sky News: ‘This is the first step in justice. At times, I despaired. Hopefully these men will implicate others and give us information about where the remains of our children are.’
Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh have been indicted on eight charges connected to the deaths of four US citizens, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday
Diane Foley (above), mother of American victim James Foley, said today: ‘This is the first step in justice. At times, I despaired’
Mike Haines (right), whose brother David Haines (left) – a British aid worker – was captured and beheaded in 2014 by the most prominent member of the ‘Beatles’ terrorist cell, ‘Jihadi John’, welcomed news of the charges
The indictment was announced Wednesday by Assistant AG for National Security John C. Demers. He confirmed that Kotey and Elsheikh would appear in court that afternoon. They are currently being transported from Iraq where they have been in US custody since 2019
Charges against ‘ISIS Beatles’ Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh
Conspiracy to commit hostage taking resulting in death
Four counts of hostage taking resulting in death
Conspiracy to murder United States citizens outside of the United States
Conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists — hostage taking and murder — resulting in death
Conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization resulting in death
Kotey and Elsheikh made their first federal court appearance in Alexandria, Virginia, after they arrived in the US.
They were transported from Iraq where they have been in US custody since 2019.
The department states the two men carried out a gruesome campaign of torture, beheadings and other acts of violence against the Western hostages they had captured in Syria.
The indictment was announced Wednesday morning by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, as he confirmed that Kotey and Elsheikh would appear in court and be indicted by a federal grand jury.
‘They will be informed of the charges against them, they will be provided with counsel if they cannot afford it, they will receive medical care, and be housed in a sanitary facility and be provided with three meals a day,’ said U.S. Attorney Zachary Terwilliger.
‘All coupled with a due process of law – all things denied to James, Kayla, Steven and Peter and the other British, and Japanese victims named in the indictment.’
The indictment describes Kotey, ‘Jihadi Ringo’, and Elsheikh, ‘Jihadi George’, as ‘leading participants in a brutal hostage-taking scheme targeting American and European citizens’ from 2012 through 2015.
‘Today is a good day, but it is also a solemn day,’ Demers said at a press conference Wednesday morning.
Remembering the four American victims, he added, ‘we are here today because of them’.
‘Many around the world are familiar with the barbaric circumstances of their tragic deaths. But these precious souls will not be remembered for their deaths. They will be remembered for the good and decent lives they lived.’
James Foley (left) and Steven Sotloff (right) were both working as journalists in Syria when they were captured and killed by Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh
The two men admitted that they helped collect email addresses from Kayla Mueller (left) that could be used to send out ransom demands. She was killed in 2015 after 18 months in ISIS captivity. Peter Kassig (right) was also killed
The charges were welcomed by Attorney General Bill Barr who said it acted as a warning to other terrorists around the world.
‘If you harm Americans, you will face American arms on the battlefield or American law in our courtrooms,’ he said.
‘Either way, you will be pursued to the ends of the earth until justice is done.’
The indictment was also welcomed by the victims families in a statement Wednesday morning.
‘Kotey and ElSheikh’s extradition and trial in the United States will be the first step in the pursuit of justice for the alleged horrific human rights crimes against these four young Americans, who saw the suffering of the Syrian people and wanted to help, whether by providing humanitarian aid or by telling the world about the evolving Syrian crisis,’ they said.
‘We are hopeful that the U.S. government will finally be able to send the important message that if you harm Americans, you will never escape justice. And when you are caught, you will face the full power of American law.’
A Kurdish security officer escorts Alexanda Kotey, left, and El Shafee Elsheikh, who were allegedly among four British jihadis who made up a brutal Islamic State cell dubbed ‘The Beatles,’ at a security center in Kobani, Syria in March 2018
How the ISIS Beatles evaded justice
June 11, 2018: Then British Home Secretary Savid Javid authorized the sharing of 600 witness statements gathered by the Metropolitan Police under a ‘mutual legal assistance’ agreement in a letter to then US Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
June 11, 2018: Javid wrote to PM Johnson, indicating that ‘significant attempts’ had been made to obtain assurances, but that the time had arrived to accede to the request for information without seeking any assurance.
He acknowledged that there was a serious risk that Elsheikh and Kotey would, if prosecuted and convicted, face execution as a direct result of UK assistance.
June 20, 2018: Mr Johnson replied on: ‘On a balanced assessment of the key risks… I agree that as this is a unique and unprecedented case, it is in the UK’s national security interests to accede to an MLA request for a criminal prosecution without death penalty assurances for Kotey and Elsheikh’.
July 26, 2018: Elsheikh’s mother Maha Elgizouli gets a High Court injunction to stop any further material from being handed over.
November 2018: Ms Elgizouli urges the Crown Prosecution Service to carry out a review if there really is insufficient evidence for him to be charged and tried in the UK.
By now the material handed over by the UK is returned to it by the US.
January, 2019: The High Court rejects a challenge by Ms Elgizouli over the UK government’s decision to share evidence with American authorities.
March, 2020: The mother’s appeal sees the decision overturned again and the Supreme Court blasts the UK Government’s ‘unlawful’ decision to bow to US pressure to share evidence on the so-called ISIS Beatles without receiving assurances the suspects would be spared the death penalty.
August 19, 2020: The US says they will no longer seek the death penalty for the pair, sparking hope justice will be served.
August 26, 2020: The Supreme Court rules they can now be sent to the US.
October 7: Elsheikh and Kotey are transported to the US where a federal grand jury will indict them on eight charges.
The accused claim they took part in torturing them and extracting information but that they did not take part in their executions.
The pair are both British but renounced their citizenship when they joined ISIS in Syria in 2014.
Foley and Sotloff were journalists working in the region and Kassig and Mueller were aid workers.
In interviews while in detention, the two men admitted that they helped collect email addresses from Mueller that could be used to send out ransom demands. She was killed in 2015 after 18 months in ISIS captivity.
The State Department, however, has said that Elsheikh and Kotey played a much more active role and it 2017, declared the pair specially designated global terrorists.
Specifically, the agency 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’.
In July 2014, the indictment states, Elsheikh described to a family member his participation in an Islamic State attack on the Syrian Army.
He sent the family member photos of decapitated heads and said in a voice message, ‘There´s many heads, this is just a couple that I took a photo of’.
Kotey and Elsheikh will face live in prison if found guilty.
According to ABC, the Justice Department has a perfect record of convictions prosecuting Islamist extremists in US district courts.
The total charges against them include conspiracy to commit hostage taking resulting in death; four counts of hostage taking resulting in death; conspiracy to murder US citizens outside of the US; conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists — hostage taking and murder — resulting in death and conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization resulting in death.
The expected court appearance Wednesday is a milestone in a years-long effort by US authorities to bring to justice members of a militant group known for beheadings and barbaric treatment of American aid workers, journalists and other hostages in Syria.
Their arrival in the U.S. to face charges sets the stage for arguably the most sensational terrorism prosecution since the 2014 case against the suspected ringleader of a deadly attack on the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.
Elsheikh and Kotey have been held in US military custody in Iraq since October 2019, but the families of their American victims have long pleaded for them to be brought onto US soil to stand trial.
British authorities were reluctant.
The indictment was unsealed by the US Justice Department on Wednesday
They eventually agreed to hand over evidence to the US that would help with a prosecution which was delivered two weeks ago.
AG Bill Barr has also agreed not to impose a death sentence on either man with the agreement of their victims’s families, who said they rather learn the truth of what happened to their loved ones through a trial.
The most prominent member of the ISIS Beatles was Mohammed Emwazi, the hooded executioner known as Jihadi John who was filmed slicing the necks of some of the victims in sickening videos that terrified the world in 2014 when ISIS spread them.
He was killed in a US drone strike in 2016. The fourth member is Aine Davis, ‘Jihadi Paul’. He is being held in a Turkish prison on terror charges.
The group earned their nickname as their hostages used the names of the different members of the Beatles to identify their British-sounding holders when they were able to communicate with each other.
The Western hostages captured, tortured and killed by the beheading gang
American journalist who kept up fellow prisoners’ morale
James Foley, from Illinois, USA, was a journalist who first went missing in November 2012
James Foley, from Illinois, in the US, was a journalist who first went missing in November 2012.
On his way to an internet cafe, while reporting for the GlobalPost, he had been taken hostage at gunpoint by militants from the group Jabhat al Nusra in Taftanaz, northern Syria.
Jabhat al Nusra subsequently joined forces with ISIS – which did not exist in anything like its current form when Mr Foley was taken.
Mr Foley joined other prisoners, who were European and British, in the ISIS prison and despite attempts to rescue him, he was eventually murdered by his captors.
His fellow prisoners spoke kindly of Foley, who called people ‘Bro’ and never argued over shortages of food, despite meagre rations equating to cup of food-a-day, often sharing his portion and his blanket.
Mr Foley often made efforts to maintain prisoners’ morale, persuading them to play games and to give talks on their favourite subjects.
He even organised a ‘Secret Santa’ during Christmas 2013, encouraging hostages to make gifts out of whatever they could find.
ISIS posted his execution video, titled ‘A Message to America’ to social media as proof of his death.
In scripted remarks before his killing, kneeling in an orange jump suit, he said: ‘I wish I could have the hope of freedom and seeing my family once again.
‘But that ship has sailed. I guess all in all I wish I wasn’t American.’
‘The guy lit up a room’: US freelance journalist who was an avid rugby player
Steven Sotloff, 31, from Miami, who freelanced for Time and Foreign Policy magazines, vanished in Syria in 2013
US journalist Steven Sotloff, 31, vanished in Syria in August 2013.
Mr Sotloff was not seen again until he appeared in a video released online by ISIS on August 2014, that showed James Foley’s beheading.
In a second clip, published weeks later, entitled ‘A Second Message to America,’ Mr Sotloff appeared in a orange jumpsuit before he is beheaded by an Islamic State fighter.
The grandson of Holocaust survivors, Mr Sotloff grew up Miami, before attending the Kimball Union Academy boarding school in New Hampshire before studying at the University of Central Florida.
While at Kimball, Mr Sotloff was an avid rugby player and on moving to UFC began working for the student newspaper there, the Central Florida Future.
He left this paper in 2005 and began to pursue his dreams of journalism full time.
‘The guy lit up a room. He was always such a loyal, caring and good friend to us,’ former roommate Josh Polsky told the New York Times.
‘If you needed to rely on anybody for anything he would drop everything on a dime for you or for anyone else.’
Sotloff travelled to the Middle East as a freelance journalist and wrote reports from Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Turkey and Syria.
He often had pieces in Time and Foreign Policy magazines.
‘A million people could have told him what he was doing was foolish, as it seemed to us outsiders looking in, but to him it was what he loved to do and you weren’t going to stop him,’ his friend, Emerson Lotzia, said.
‘Steve said it was scary over there. It was dangerous. It wasn’t safe to be over there. He knew it. He kept going back.’
British taxi driver who volunteered as an aid worker
Alan Henning, a father-of-two, was kidnapped on Boxing Day 2013 as he delivered aid to Syrian refugees
Alan Henning, a father-of-two, was kidnapped on Boxing Day 2013 as he delivered aid to Syrian refugees.
The taxi-driver, from Manchester, was kept hostage until he was beheaded by Jihadi John on video in October 2014.
Before he was killed, Mr Henning was forced to tell the camera that he was being murdered in retaliation for parliament’s decision to attack ISIS.
Originally from Salford, he had seen the suffering first hand during a life-changing visit to a refugee camp, which inspired him to help the innocents whose lives were being wrecked by the conflict.
After volunteering with a Muslim charity, the 47-year-old agreed to drive 3,000 miles in a convoy of old ambulances to help the aid effort and take much-needed medical supplies to hospitals in the northern Syrian province of Idlib.
Known as ‘Gadget’ to friends and family for his fondness for technology, Mr Henning had been washing cars in the UK to raise money for donations before setting off on his fourth visit to the country.
He travelled with eight others from charity Al-Fathiha Global, who intended to deliver vital equipment, including NHS ambulances packed with baby milk, nappies, food and defibrillators, but was kidnapped by ISIS extremists on Boxing Day, shortly after making the 4,000-mile journey to the town of Al-Dana.
A fan of Phil Collins, which he enjoyed playing as he drove, Mr Henning was incredibly popular and during one trip insisted on sleeping inside his ambulance instead of a hotel to save money so it could be donated to the refugees instead.
Kasim Jameel, leader of the convoy on which Mr Henning was travelling when he was kidnapped, described his friend as a ‘big softie.’
Dr Shameela Islam-Zulfiqar, who was also in the convoy, said Mr Henning was ‘remarkable.’
‘He’s such a compassionate and selfless human being,’ she said. ‘It just simply wasn’t enough for Alan to sit back and just donate or raise awareness.
He had to get up and do something about what he’d seen Every time the convoys went he had a yearning to go. That really motivated him, to see, practically, first-hand the difference he was making.’
Scottish father-of-two who spent his career as an aid worker
David Haines, who was beheaded a week after Steven Sotloff, was the first British victim of Jihadi John
David Haines, who was beheaded a week after Steven Sotloff, was the first British victim of Jihadi John.
The father-of-two, from Holderness, East Yorkshire, was taken hostage while working for relief agency ACTED in Syria in March this year.
He was captured near the Atmeh refugee camp, just inside the Syrian border with Turkey.
Mr Haines spent his career as an aid worker helping to protect innocent civilians in developing nations.
For more than two decades, he travelled with aid agencies through Syria, Libya, the former Yugoslavia and South Sudan.
He dedicated his life to promoting peace in places of violent conflict and oversaw projects to save civilians from land mines.
The 44-year-old was described as a hero by his family, who were inspired by him to travel the world on further aid missions.
He had a teenage daughter in Scotland from a previous marriage with his first wife, and a four-year-old daughter, Athea, in Croatia from his second wife.
Mr Haines was brought up in Perth, Scotland, and studied at Perth Academy before joining the military aged 17.
According to his online CV he spent 11 years in the military, holding ‘various positions covering security and threat assessments in a number of different countries’ between 1988 and 1999.
It did not specify with which armed forces he served, although his ISIS execution video claimed he had been in the Royal Air Force.
His brother Mike later confirmed this, saying he was an engineer.
26-year-old who was helping refugees while living in Beirut
Peter Kassig, a 26-year-old from Indiana, was beheaded by ISIS executioner Jihadi John in November 2014
Peter Kassig, a 26-year-old from Indiana, started a non-profit organisation called Special Emergency Response and Assistance (SERA).
The Iraq war veteran, who was living in Beirut to provide relief for refugees of the Syrian crisis, was beheaded by ISIS executioner Jihadi John, in November 2014.
Writing on his profile page on fundraising website FundRazr, Mr Kassig said he had previously worked as a medic in a hospital in Tripoli, Lebanon.
He said: ‘When I first started this cause to help those in need, I was on my own but I saw first-hand the shortages in available resources and supplies for people who were suffering in Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey as a result of the violence.
‘The amount of feedback and support from people all around the world motivated me to get organised and develop a platform through which people could send donations to support the continuation of my work.’
Kassig joined the U.S. Army Rangers in 2006 and was deployed to Iraq in 2007.
He was honourably discharged for medical reasons after a brief tour and returned to the United States to study political science.
However, in 2010, he decided to take time off from his studies and began his certification as an emergency medical technician.
He then decided to travel to Beirut to try and help those in need as a result of the Syria crisis.
It was after a short time in the country that he started up his own aid group, SERA.
Few details are publicly known about how Kassig was taken captive.
The 26-year-old humanitarian who said there was always light in darkness
Kayla Mueller, 26, was kept as a sex slave by ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi
American Kayla Mueller was a humanitarian aid worker who was kidnapped and taken hostage in August 2013 after leaving a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Aleppo, Syria.
She was kept as a sex slave by ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, who raped her repeatedly during her captivity.
The fanatics reportedly demanded 5 million euros from Mueller’s family, telling them that that they would send a picture of her body if they were not given money.
Kotey has admitted having contact with her, adding: ‘I took an email from her myself. She was in a room by herself that no one would go in.’
Her death was reported in February 2015 and her name was used as the codeword for the daring US raid that killed her once captor.
Kayla’s body has never been found and her parents live in hope her remains will be recovered.
Mother Martha said: I want people to see the light in Kayla in such utter darkness, how she just said there is always light.
“And I also want people to see that she even told people that as far as where she was, maybe she was supposed to be there, this is where she was supposed to be all along. She always wanted to help.’
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