The Justice Department unsealed charges Wednesday against two Islamic State militants from Britain, accusing them of carrying out a gruesome campaign of torture, beheadings, and other acts of violence against Western hostages they'd captured in Syria, including four Americans. El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey are two of four men dubbed "the Beatles," due to their British accents, by the hostages they held captive. They're expected to make their first appearance Wednesday afternoon in federal court in Alexandria, Va., where a federal grand jury issued an eight-count indictment, per the AP. The charges are a milestone in a yearslong effort by US authorities to bring to justice members of the group known for beheadings and barbaric treatment of aid workers, journalists, and other hostages in Syria. Videos of the killings, released online, stunned the US government for their unflinching violence.
The indictment describes Kotey and Elsheikh as "leading participants in a brutal hostage-taking scheme targeting American and European citizens" from 2012 through 2015. The State Department declared Elsheikh and Kotey as specially designated global terrorists in 2017 and accused them of holding captive and beheading approximately two dozen hostages, including American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and aid worker Peter Kassig. Elsheikh and Kotey have been held since October 2019 in US military custody after being captured in Syria one year earlier by the US-based Syrian Democratic Forces.
The other two Beatles included the most infamous member of the group, Mohammed Emwazi, known as "Jihadi John," who was killed in a 2015 drone strike. Emwazi appeared and spoke in the video of Foley's execution. The fourth member, Aine Lesley Davis, was sentenced to seven years in prison in Turkey in 2017.
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