The Justice Department announced Wednesday that two former ISIS guards are en route to the U.S. where they will face charges for their role in the murders of four U.S. hostages.
The two former British citizens, Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee ElSheikh, were both part of the notorious quartet of ISIS guards known as "The Beatles" that orchestrated the abduction and murders of Western hostages in Syria from 2012 to 2015.
The announcement marked the end of a more than two-year diplomatic spat between the U.S. and U.K. governments regarding the duo's extradition. The U.K. finally agreed to hand over the two men after Attorney General William Barr this summer committed that the U.S. would not seek the death penalty in their cases.
The families of four Americans who were kidnapped, tortured and murdered by ISIS including James Foley, Peter Kassig, Kayla Mueller and Steven Sotloff released a joint statement celebrating the news Wednesday.
"Now our families can pursue accountability for these crimes against our children in a U.S. court," the families said. "Kotey and ElSheikh's extradition and trial in the United States will be the first step in the pursuit of justice for the alleged horrific human rights crimes against these four young Americans, who saw the suffering of the Syrian people and wanted to help, whether by providing humanitarian aid or by telling the world about the evolving Syrian crisis."
The four 'Beatles' captured almost two dozen Western hostages and released horrific propaganda videos showing the executions of individuals like Foley as they demanded for the U.S. to end its air campaign against ISIS. The lead executioner, dubbed 'Jihadi John,' was later identified as Mohammed Emwazi and was killed in a drone strike in 2015. The fourth 'Beatle,' Aine Davis, is currently being held in a Turkish prison.
In a news conference at the Justice Department Wednesday, top U.S. officials said the news of the extradition should serve as a message to any terrorists abroad who believe they can harm or kill Americans and escape justice.
"Today's announcement makes clear once again that combating terrorism remains the FBI's top priority and that the entire United States government remains committed to bringing to justice anyone who harms our citizens," FBI Director Christopher Wray said.
Kotey and Elsheikh were both indicted on eight counts including conspiracy, hostage taking resulting in death, and providing material support to a terrorist organization, each of which carries a sentence of life in prison according to the Justice Department.
They will make their first appearance before a federal judge in Alexandria, Virginia, on Wednesday afternoon, according to U.S. Attorney Zachary Terwilliger.
"They will be informed of the charges against them, they will be provided with counsel if they cannot afford it, they will receive medical care, and be housed in a sanitary facility and be provided with three meals a day," Terwilliger said. "All coupled with a due process of law -- all things denied to James, Kayla, Steven and Peter and the other British, and Japanese victims named in the indictment."
This report was featured in the Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020, episode of “Start Here,” ABC News’ daily news podcast.
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