Today, the long arm of justice was on display as the United States extradited two former British nationals who are members of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) terror organization (a designated terrorist group by the Department of State) for the kidnap and murder of four U.S. citizens: James Wright Foley, Steven Joel Sotloff, Peter Edward Kassig, and Kayla Jean Mueller. Due to their British accents, they were known as “The Beatles.”

The extradition of the two was mired in UK courts as extradition laws prohibit the extradition of individuals to countries with the death penalty. The UK courts ruled in March 2020 that the UK should not provide evidence to the United States concerning the two terrorists. In August 2020, that ban was lifted and the prosecution of the two British nationals, already in U.S. custody abroad was greenlighted. The Department of Justice is not seeking the death penalty for Alexanda Amon Kotey or El Shafee Elsheikh.

At a news conference on October 7, FBI Director Christopher Wray said, “Today, we remember the victims, Jim Foley, Steven Sotloff, Peter Kassig, and Kayla Mueller, and their families who are forever affected by these senseless acts of violence. These families have suffered with the painful loss of their loved ones at the hands of brutal killers; today’s charges demonstrate the FBI‘s dedication and commitment to giving them the justice they deserve.  We, along with our partners in the U.S. Government, remain steadfast in our duty to bring to justice those who have harmed our citizens — no matter where they are, and no matter how long it takes.”

In addition to the four U.S. citizens, the group was responsible for the deaths of numerous other foreigners in Syria to include, the United Kingdom, Italy, Denmark, Germany, France, Spain, New Zealand, and Russia.

The barbaric acts of these individuals included evidence of beheading Foley, Stoloff, and Kassig and UK citizens Haines and Henning, as well as the murder of two Japanese citizens.

The Terrorists

The indictment explains how the two indicted terrorists were part of a larger group focused on kidnapping foreigners present in Syria. They then would attempt to extract a ransom payment or release of ISIS prisoners while torturing and abusing their hostages/prisoner in the most heinous manner imaginable. They were captured by the Syrian Democratic Forces on January 4, 2018 as they attempted to escape Syria for Turkey.

Alexanda Amon Kotey, age 36, was born in London. El Shafee Elsheikh, age 32 was born in the Sudan and immigrated to the U.K. as a child. A third, UK citizen, killed by a U.S. airstrike in 2015, has been identified as Mohamed Emwazi, born in Kenya in 1988. These individuals were radicalized prior to their travel to Syria, according to the court documents. Following radicalization, they departed, together, via Turkey to Syria on August 29, 2012.

The court documents identify additional individuals who collaborated with and/or guided Kotey and Elsheikh as Abu Bakr Al-Baghadi (killed in a U.S. military operation in 2019), Abu Muhammad al-Adnani (killed in a U.S. military operation in 2016) and a co-conspirator currently being held in Turkey, who is also a UK citizen.

Last week, the DOJ announced the extradition and indictment of U.S. citizens, Emraan Ali, age 53 and Jihad Ali, age 19. Both of these individuals were charged with providing and attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.

Grand Jury Indictments

The multi-count indictment from the grand jury located in Virginia charges the duo with four counts of hostage taking, resulting in death, and four conspiracy and providing material support charges for the hostage taking and murder of United States citizens.

If convicted, the two will face up to life imprisonment.

“These charges are the product of many years of hard work in pursuit of justice for our citizens slain by ISIS.  Although we cannot bring them back, we can and will seek justice for them, their families, and for all Americans,” said Attorney General William P. Barr. “Our message to other terrorists around the world is this — if you harm Americans, you will face American arms on the battlefield or American law in our courtrooms. Either way, you will be pursued to the ends of the earth until justice is done.”

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Christopher Burgess (@burgessct) is an author and speaker on the topic of security strategy. Christopher, served 30+ years within the Central Intelligence Agency. He lived and worked in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Central Europe, and Latin America. Upon his retirement, the CIA awarded him the Career Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the highest level of career recognition. Christopher co-authored the book, “Secrets Stolen, Fortunes Lost, Preventing Intellectual Property Theft and Economic Espionage in the 21st Century” (Syngress, March 2008). He is the founder of securelytravel.com