Two British militants believed to have been a part of an Islamic State group cell infamous for beheading hostages in Syria have been unapologetic of their first interview since their seize, denouncing the US and Britain as “hypocrites” who is not going to give them a good trial.
The boys, together with two different British jihadis, allegedly made up the IS cell nicknamed ‘The Beatles’ by surviving captives due to their English accents.
The nickname belied the cell’s brutality. In 2014 and 2015, it held greater than 20 Western hostages in Syria and tortured lots of them. It beheaded seven American, British and Japanese journalists and help employees and a gaggle of Syrian troopers, boasting of the butchery in movies launched to the world.
Talking to The Related Press at a Kurdish safety centre, the 2 males, El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Amon Kotey, repeatedly refused to deal with allegations they have been a part of the cell — clearly having a future trial in thoughts. They complained that they might “disappear” after Britain reportedly revoked their citizenship.
They have been captured in January in japanese Syria by the Kurdish-led, US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces amid the collapse of IS. Their detention has set off a debate within the US and Europe over how one can prosecute their residents who joined IS — because the Kurds stress the West to take them again to alleviate overcrowding in prisons.
The 2 mentioned the killings of the captives have been a mistake — however for tactical causes.
Many in IS “would have disagreed” with the killings “on the grounds that there’s in all probability extra profit in them being political prisoners,” Kotey mentioned.
“I didn’t see any profit (in killing them). It was one thing that was regrettable.” He additionally blamed Western governments for failing to barter, noting that some hostages have been launched for ransoms.
Elsheikh mentioned the killings have been a “mistake” and won’t have been justified. However, he mentioned, they have been in retaliation for killings of civilians by the US-led coalition preventing IS. He mentioned the militants shouldn’t have initially threatened to kill the hostages as a result of then they needed to go forward with it or else “your credibility might go.”
The beheadings, usually carried out on digicam, horrified the world quickly after IS took over a lot of Iraq and Syria in 2014. The group additionally dedicated widescale atrocities together with massacring 1000’s of Iraqi troops and civilians and taking intercourse slaves.
The primary sufferer was American journalist James Foley, adopted by fellow Individuals Steven Sotloff and Peter Kassig, British help employees David Haines and Alan Henning and Japanese journalists Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto.
Talking to the AP on Friday, Foley’s mom, Diane Foley, referred to as on the worldwide neighborhood and US authorities “to have the braveness to carry these males accountable in an open trial the place we will face them they usually can hear all of the ache and struggling they’ve inflicted on the world. And in order that the remainder of the world can perceive the atrocity of their crimes.”
She mentioned she opposes the loss of life penalty for them because it feeds jihadi “need for martyrdom and heroic afterlife.”
“These males don’t deserve that. They should be held in solitary confinement for the remainder of their lives.”
The chief of the cell, Mohammed Emwazi, was dubbed “Jihadi John” within the British media after he appeared, masked, within the movies, typically performing the butchery. He was killed in a US-led coalition drone strike in 2015 within the Syrian metropolis of Raqqa, the de facto IS capital. One other member, Aine Lesley Davis, was arrested in Turkey and convicted there in 2017, sentenced to seven years in jail.
Elsheikh, whose household got here to Britain from Sudan when he was a baby, was a mechanic from White Metropolis in west London.
He traveled to Syria in 2012, initially becoming a member of al-Qaida’s department earlier than transferring on to IS, in response to the US State Division’s itemizing of the 2 males for terrorism sanctions. It mentioned he “earned a fame for waterboarding, mock executions and crucifixions whereas serving as an (IS) jailer.”
Kotey, who’s of Ghanaian and Greek-Cypriot descent and transformed to Islam in his 20s, is from London’s Paddington neighbourhood.
Serving within the IS cell as a guard, he “seemingly engaged within the group’s executions and exceptionally merciless torture strategies,” the State Division mentioned. It additionally mentioned he was an IS recruiter who introduced different Britons into the group.
Elsheikh and Kotey spoke to the AP at a Kurdish safety constructing within the city of Kobani, the place they have been introduced, initially in handcuffs and face covers that have been eliminated. They appeared to talk brazenly with no indicators of duress and have been pleasant with SDF safety who got here out and in of the room.
They have been each initially confrontational however over the interview grew to become extra conversational. Kotey usually cracked jokes — when requested whether or not IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was alive, he joked that some individuals thought Elvis by no means died and Tupac Shakur continues to be alive. Elsheikh was straightlaced and reserved, referring extra usually to Islamic texts.
They have been unrepentant about belonging to IS — although they mentioned they didn’t agree with every little thing it did. Kotey mentioned he didn’t suppose suicide bombings have been permissible in Islam. Elsheikh mentioned IS’s killing of a captured Jordanian pilot by burning him alive in a cage was “atrocious.”
However they appeared dismissive of the concept that IS was egregious in brutality.
“I’m not right here to justify or shun each act IS did,” Elsheikh mentioned, arguing that nationals of a rustic can’t be held answerable for crimes by the state.
They scoffed at the concept that that they have been a cell and refused to remark whether or not they had labored as jailors, had ever seen any hostages or knew Emwazi.
They depicted the allegations as created by media and international intelligence — “so the world can say that is the unhealthy man and kill the unhealthy man,” Elsheikh mentioned.
“No honest trial, when I’m ‘the Beatle’ within the media. No honest trial,” he added.
They mentioned that they had been questioned repeatedly by US navy officers and the FBI — each day interrogations for a month, then frequent ones for weeks after.
The US has been urgent for the house nations of international jihadis in Iraq and Syria to take their nationals for trial. Britain’s protection secretary has mentioned they shouldn’t be allowed again into the nation. Former captives of the cell and households of its victims have referred to as on Elsheikh and Kotey to be given a good trial, whether or not in america or Britain, arguing that locking them away in a a facility like Guantanamo Bay would solely gasoline additional radicalism.
Kurdish officers complain they’re being left to take care of the IS legacy, together with overburdened prisons stuffed with militants, together with international fighters whose dwelling nations don’t need to take them again.
Elsheikh and Kotey are held in an undisclosed location. Kotey mentioned he shares a cell with 70 others, all however 4 of them Syrians, and that they’re sleeping like “sardines, actually head to toe, head to toe.” Regardless of the overcrowding, he mentioned, they get recent air, play video games and have courses.
Kotey mentioned the US and Britain weren’t upholding their very own legal guidelines of due course of. “The place are they now or are they simply relevant once they swimsuit you?” he mentioned. “It simply appears very hypocritical, double requirements.”
The 2 denounced as “unlawful” the British authorities’s reported choice in February to strip them of citizenship. The choice was extensively reported in British media, although officers haven’t confirmed or denied it, citing privateness guidelines.
The revocation exposes them to “rendition and torture,” Elsheikh mentioned.
“When you could have these two guys who don’t even have any citizenship …if we simply disappear someday, the place is my mother going to go and say the place is my son,” he mentioned.
“I discovered it unusual that they might really do this, revoke the citizenship of an individual,” Kotey mentioned.
“I used to be born within the UK,” he mentioned. “My mom was born within the UK. I’ve a daughter there within the UK. … I in all probability by no means left the UK greater than three months” earlier than coming to Syria.
Kotey mentioned the fairest venue for a trial often is the Worldwide Prison Court docket in The Hague within the Netherlands. “That might be the logical resolution.”