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Jury reaches verdict in case of British ISIS member accused of kidnapping
A federal jury in Virginia has reached a verdict in the case of El Shafee Elsheikh, one of the three British men accused of operating a brutal ISIS hostage-taking scheme that led to the deaths of four Americans.
Collectively known as the “Beatles” for their British accents, Elsheikh and his co-conspirators Mohammed Emwazi and Alexanda Kotey worked together to kidnap and abuse more than two dozen Western hostages, according to prosecutors. He’s charged with participating in the plot that led to the deaths of American hostages James Foley, Peter Kassig, Kayla Mueller and Steven Sotloff.
“This defendant put the terror in terrorism himself,” First Assistant U.S. Attorney Raj Parekh said during closing arguments in Alexandria, Virginia, Wednesday.
Foley, Kassig and Sotloff were all beheaded in a series of gruesome ISIS propaganda videos released in 2014. ISIS had claimed Mueller was killed in a 2015 airstrike while she was in Syria, but prosecutors Wednesday said they now believe ISIS killed her after holding her as a slave and sexually abusing her for a year and a half.
Elsheikh was not accused of carrying out the act of killing the hostages himself, but was charged with participating in the kidnapping and torture that led to the murders of the hostages.
Elsheikh and Kotey were ultimately captured together and held by Syrian Defense Forces before Britain agreed to extradite them to the U.S. for trial. Kotey has agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence. Emwazi, known as “Jihadi John” and as the figure who carried out many of the hostage executions, was killed in Syria in 2015.
Defense attorney Nina Ginsberg did not deny Elsheikh had traveled to Syria and joined ISIS or that he knew Emwazi and Kotey. However, she contended that the government did not prove that Elsheikh was one of the three Beatles. The defense claims he is just an ISIS soldier.
“Mr. Elsheikh was never identified in this courtroom by any of the former hostages,” Ginsberg said.
This is a developing story and will be updated.