WASHINGTON - Two British Islamic State fighters, members of a kidnapping cell dubbed "The Beatles" that was notorious for videotaping beheadings, have been captured in Syria, a US defence official confirmed on Thursday.
The two members of the group who had still been in the field, Alexanda Amon Kotey and El Shafee el-Sheikh, both from Britain, were captured in January in eastern Syria by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.
The pair is believed to have "participated in the detention, exploitation and execution of Western detainees", the official said in a statement.
The two were also "believed to have acted as guards and interpreters involved in ISIS’ illegal captivity of Western hostages, and are thought to have links to the British terrorist often called ’Jihadi John’," the official said.
Last year, the US State Department said the London-born Kotey had "likely" taken part in executions and used "exceptionally cruel torture methods, including electric shock and waterboarding," while guarding the group’s captives.
Among the other two members of the "Beatles" group, Mohammed Emwazi -- "Jihadi John" -- was killed in 2015 in a drone strike by the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group.
The fourth member of the gang, Aine Davis, is being held in Turkey. Emwazi was the group’s leader, gaining notoriety for using a knife to kill hostages in a string of beheadings that were videotaped and posted on the internet, generating outrage against the IS group but also inspiring similar acts by the extremists.
His victims included US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, and British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning.
Overall, the group handled more than 20 foreign hostages during the 2014-2015 period, earning reported millions of dollars in ransom payments.
Hostages who survived reported being beaten, shocked by Tasers, and undergoing waterboardings at the hands of the group.
It was the hostages who gave them their nickname "The Beatles," after the legendary rock group, for their British accents.
’Hundreds’ of foreign-born fighters
The US official did not give any information on the condition of the two or what would happen to them.
"El-Shafee el-Sheikh and Kotey represent a small portion of the hundreds of foreign-born ISIS terrorists from several nations who have been taken off the battlefield by Syrian Democratic Forces in eastern Syria since October 2017," the official said, requesting anonymity.
The British foreign ministry declined to confirm the capture.
"We don’t comment on individual cases or ongoing investigations," a spokesperson said.
The SDF last year turned over another English-speaking IS captive to the US forces. While his name remains secret, he has been identified as a native-born American with Saudi dual nationality.
The US Justice Department says they have considered transferring him to a third country -- presumably Saudi Arabia -- while US civil rights lawyers are battling to have his case transferred to US civilian courts.
President Donald Trump has said that Islamist fighters captured on the battlefield in Syria and Iraq, including Americans, could be sent to the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Last week he reversed an order by his predecessor Barack Obama to close the Guantanamo prison, which still holds 41 people.
Most of them were captured in Afghanistan following September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. The prison has not received any new inmates since 2008.
"I am asking Congress to ensure that in the fight against ISIS and al-Qaeda, we continue to have all necessary power to detain terrorists wherever we chase them down, wherever we find them, and in many cases for them, it will now be Guantanamo Bay," Trump said during his State of the Union Speech on January 30. - AFP