United States officials have pledged to hold terrorists accountable following the capture of two Britons suspected of having been part of the Islamic State extremist group dubbed “The Beatles”.
Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh are currently being held in Syria after their capture by Kurdish militia fighters in January and a US Department of Defence (DoD) spokesman said they are “still considering options” for the pair.
ITV News later obtained what they described as the first image of Kotey – wearing a grey top and with a dark beard – in detention after he allegedly tried to smuggle himself into Turkey to escape capture.
Alexanda Kotey is believed to be one of the Islamic State terrorists dubbed The Beatles (ITV News/PA)
Along with Mohammed Emwazi – the killer nicknamed Jihadi John – and Aine Davis, they are thought to have been part of a group named after the ’60s band because of their English accents.
The four Londoners were linked to a string of hostage murders in Iraq and Syria during the bloody Islamist uprising.
US officials said Kotey and Elsheikh “are suspected to have participated in the detention, exploitation and execution of Western detainees”.
Asked if they would be prosecuted and, if so, where they might face trial Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway from the DoD told the Press Association: “We are still considering options regarding el-Sheikh and Kotey, but rest assured our intention is to hold anyone accountable who commits acts like those they are alleged to have committed.”
He said US Government agencies are working closely with coalition partners “on the disposition of detainees in SDF detention”.
He confirmed they are being held by US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in a “detention location” in Syria, but said he could not give any further information.
There have been various reports as to where exactly they were captured.
Mark Campbell, co-chairman of the Kurdish Solidarity Campaign, said he understood from sources in the YPG (Kurdistan People’s Protection Units) the arrests had taken place in the Deir ez-Zur region in the north-east of Syria, towards the Iraq border.
An SDF statement on Friday said Kotey was captured around 90 miles from there in a rural part of Raqqa.
A spokesman said it is believed Kotey had been trying to cross into Turkey.
Relatives of those slaughtered by the jihadist group said they hoped the pair would be brought to justice.
Bethany Haines, whose father David was killed in 2014 after being held captive for 18 months, told ITV’s Good Morning Britain she would like the pair to be “locked up with the key thrown away” and is hopeful their capture will bring closure to bereaved families.
British aid worker David Haines was killed in 2014 (Danny Lawson/PA)
The New York Times, which first broke the story of the capture, said Kotey, 34, and Elsheikh, 29, were identified by fingerprints and other biometric means.
It has been reported they have had their British citizenship revoked – but this has not been confirmed by authorities in the UK.
In January 2017, US authorities named Kotey, from Paddington, as a member of the cell and said they had imposed sanctions on him.
In a statement at the time, the State Department said Kotey was “one of four members of an execution cell for… the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil)”.
It said the “notorious cell, dubbed ‘The Beatles'” had held captive and beheaded approximately two dozen hostages.
It went on: “As a guard for the cell, Kotey likely engaged in the group’s executions and exceptionally cruel torture methods, including electronic shock and waterboarding.
“Kotey has also acted as an Isil recruiter and is responsible for recruiting several UK nationals to join the terrorist organisation.”
The Kotey family have said they had “seen news about Alexe today”, but said they would not be commenting further and asked that they are not contacted by the media.
Former child refugee Elsheikh, a mechanic from White City in west London, “was said to have earned a reputation for waterboarding, mock executions, and crucifixions while serving as an Isis jailer”, the US State Department said.
British hostage Alan Henning, a cab driver-turned-aid worker from Lancashire, was killed by Jihadi John in 2014 (Family handout/PA)
Emwazi, who was killed in a US air strike in 2015, appeared in a number of videos in which captives including British aid workers Mr Haines and Alan Henning were beheaded.
The fourth member, Davis, was convicted of being a member of a terrorist organisation and jailed for seven-and-a-half years by a court in Silivri, Turkey, in May 2017.
The Foreign Office said it did not comment on individual cases or ongoing investigations.