Two British Isis militants captured in Syria have provided intelligence which facilitated operations hunting other Jihadis down.
The last two members of the British Isis cell known as ‘’The Beatles’’ were Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh until they were detained by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The two were involved in the torture and execution of hostages including the American journalist James Foley and British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning.
The two have been interrogated while in custody, while diplomats in London and Washington are understood to be in discussions about where they will be taken next. Tobias Ellwood, who is the Defense Minister said that the men should be tried in the International Criminal Court in The Hague, rather than being sent to the US detention camp in Cuba.
Authorities hope that they’ll get more information as to what happened to remaining hostages including the British journalist John Cantlie, who disappeared after appearing in a series of Isis propaganda videos. Elsheikh and Kotey are among hundreds of foreign fighters captured by the SDF as it drives militants out of their self-declared “caliphate”, with biometric tests used to identify suspects.
Plans were underway as to how Intelligence agencies would capture the pair alive after killing “The Beatles” ringleader Jihadi John, whose real name was Mohammed Emwazi, in a 2015 drone strike, recognising their value in potentially providing intelligence. The fourth militant in the cell, Aine Davis, has been jailed for terror offences in Turkey and information from his interrogations has been passed to Washington and London.
The US military vowed to hold Kotey and Elsheikh accountable for their crimes. Eric Pahon, a spokesman from the US Department of Defence, told The Independent: “We are still considering options regarding Elsheikh and Kotey, but rest assured our intention is to hold anyone accountable who commits acts like those they are alleged to have committed.”
Elsheikh, 29, was said to have earned a reputation for waterboarding, mock executions and crucifixions while serving as a jailer, while fellow guard Kotey was involved in beheadings and known for “exceptionally cruel torture methods”, including electronic shocks. The 34-year-old is also accused of acting as an Isis recruiter and being responsible for drawing several other British extremists to join the terrorist group.
Kotey was born in London, he is half-Ghanaian, half-Greek Cypriot and grew up in Shepherd’s Bush.
He is believed to have converted to Islam in his early twenties, and left two young children in Britain when he travelled to Gaza in 2009 as part of a controversial Gaza aid convoy organised by former Labour and Respect MP George Galloway.
It would not prevent them being put on trial in the UK, even if the offences in question were committed
Dr Shiraz Maher, deputy director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College London, said the capture of Kotey and Elsheikh was “hugely significant” because the bulk of high-profile Isis targets are either at large or dead.
“These men will have important intelligence about the fates of western hostages in their custody, including some who remain captives of Isis,” he added.
“It also demonstrates that, just because Isis has lost territory or moved off our television screens, the group has not gone away.
“European foreign fighters very much remain a part of this organisation and continue to play a role in the next phase of its mutation as it reverts back to its insurgent roots."