The American-backed Syrian Democratic Forces captured two notorious British members of an Islamic State insurgent cell commonly dubbed "The Beatles" and known for beheading hostages, the AP reports. A US military official said Thursday that El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Amon Kotey were captured in early January in eastern Syria. The two men are among four members of the IS cell that captured, tortured, and beheaded more than two dozen hostages, including American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and American aid worker Peter Kassig. The State Department has imposed sanctions on both men. They are believed to be linked to the British terrorist known as Jihadi John, the masked IS militant who appeared in several videos depicting the graphic beheadings of Western hostages.
According to the US, Elsheikh traveled to Syria in 2012 and first joined al-Qaida's branch there, and then later joined IS. The State Department, in imposing sanctions on Kotey last year, said he likely engaged in executions and torture, including electronic shock and waterboarding, and recruited several British nationals to IS. US officials did not provide any other details of the capture, but said the US government with its coalition partners on the disposition of detainees held by the SDF. They said those discussions are private and no additional information would be given. According to military officials, Kotey and Elsheikh represent just a small portion of the hundreds of foreign-born IS terrorists from a number of nations that SDF fighters have captured or killed since October 2017.