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Islamic State Cell Member Who Killed Americans is Convicted

A member of an Islamic State cell known as "the Beatles" because of their British accents that beheaded U.S. citizens in Iraq and Syria was found guilty of terrorism charges in a Virginia federal court, the Guardian reports. El Shafee Elsheikh, 33, faces life in prison. Among the charges were hostage-taking, conspiracy to murder U.S. citizens, and supporting a terrorist organization. There were three "Beatles," who were identified by their voices in videos released by the group. Prosecutors argued that each of these men played an integral role in the hostage scheme, with Elsheikh admitting that he helped collect email addresses and provided proof of life to the hostages’ families in ransom negotiations. Elsheikh and one other "Beatle," Alexenda Kotey, were the last of the men to be apprehended or killed when they were captured by Kurdish forces in 2018. Both were brought to Virginia to face trial in 2020 under a U.S. promise not to seek the death penalty. Kotey pleaded guilty last year in a plea bargain that called for a life sentence. He serve out his sentence in the UK after 15 years in the U.S. Both Kotey and Elsheikh have been stripped of their UK citizenship.

Elsheikh and his accomplices were especially cruel in their treatment of hostages. Surviving witnesses recounted that they were forced to fight other hostages under threat of being waterboarded and that they dreaded the appearance of any of "the Beatles." Of the four American hostages they killed, all but one were beheaded in videos circulated online. The other, Kayla Mueller, was forced into slavery and raped numerous times before being killed. In total, 26 hostages were taken between 2012 and 2015. At trial, defense lawyers acknowledged that Elsheikh was a member of the Islamic State group, but said prosecutors failed to prove he was a "Beatle." They cited a lack of clarity about which Beatle was which and how certain acts could be attributed to each of them, given that they always appeared on video with masks and discouraged hostages from looking them in the eye.


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