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Today John C. Demers, the Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division of the Department of Justice, charged two of the four British Islamic State terrorists, known for the torture and beheading of 4 U.S. citizens. The text of his remarks appear here. The pair were nicknamed the “Beatles” by their hostages because of their British accents.

Credit: AP

The two terrorists were allegedly responsible for the kidnapping and “torturous killing” of American humanitarian aid workers Kayla Meuller, and Army Ranger, Peter Kassig, and journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.

AP/Handout

During the press conference, Assistant AG Demers was joined by FBI Director Chris Wray, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Zach Terwilliger, and the Acting Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office, James Dawson.

The pair of terrorists were responsible for a “brutal hostage-taking scheme” targeting American, European, and Japanese citizens from 2012 to 2015. The terrorists were radicalized in London before traveling to Syria to train.

AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File

Demers announced the indictment of Alexanda Amon Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh.  Kotey and Elsheikh “were members of the notoriously brutal ISIS hostage-taking cell that became known as ‘the Beatles’ — a name their captives gave to them because of their British accents.  The defendants are charged with terrorism offenses relating to the hostage-taking and killing of four Americans, as well as nationals of the United Kingdom and Japan. For approximately a year, Kotey and Elsheikh were held in Iraq by the U.S. military under the law of armed conflict. I am pleased to confirm that they are now in FBI custody and will soon land in the United States and appear in federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia.”

Demers went on to say that he wished to remember these Americans not by their deaths but by the lives they lead. “Many around the world are familiar with the barbaric circumstances of their tragic deaths.  But we will not remember these Americans for their deaths.  We will remember them for the good and decent lives they lived.” 

These indictments are a result of “many years of hard work” by the Department of Justice resulting in 8 count criminal indictment that was released under seal today. According to Zachary Terwilliger of United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, the defendants will face a maximum penalty of life in prison for each count.

 

According to Fox News, the Justice Department “had planned to prosecute Elsheikh and Kotey in Northern Virginia for some time but the proceedings were delayed because the evidence the British had – which is believed to be essential to the case against the two men – had been held up following a legal challenge made on behalf of one of the alleged terrorist’s mothers. She challenged the legality of the British government cooperating with the U.S.”

Fox News also reports that the indictments described “the horrific treatment of the hostage victims – which included, among other acts, the forced witnessing of murders, mock executions, shock by electric Tasers, waterboarding or threats of it, and beatings – and their ransom demands that were sent to the victims’ families. The hostages’ release, the indictment states, “was conditioned on the transfer of large sums of money or concessions from the U.S. government, such as the release of ‘Muslim prisoners,’ or large sums of money.”

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.”

FBI Director, Christopher Wray, remarks emphasized the FBI’s multi-agency commitment to coordination with families. He described the creation by the Obama White House of the Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell in June of 2015 whose “single focus is to bring these hostages home safely and partner with their families in the recovery effort. A key part of that fusion cell is the Family Engagement Team. That team not only coordinates support to family members of hostages during times of agony and uncertainty—it also supports hostages and families once the crisis is over.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray was joined by Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia G. Zachary Terwilliger, and Acting Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office James A. Dawson

Wray remarked, “The families of the victims have suffered the painful loss of their loved ones at the hands of brutal killers. And while their pain may never fully subside, today, with the announcement of this indictment, we’re beginning to bring them the justice they deserve.”

Director Wray concluded that the FBI will “relentlessly pursue these terrorists—and anyone who chooses to support terrorist organizations like ISIS—no matter where they are, and no matter how long it takes.”