Alexanda Amon Kotey (left) and El Shafee Elsheikh, who were allegedly among four British jihadis who made up a brutal Islamic State cell dubbed ‘The Beatles’, speak during an interview with The Associated Press at a security center in Kobani, Syria, on March 30, 2018.(AP)
Alexanda Amon Kotey (left) and El Shafee Elsheikh, who were allegedly among four British jihadis who made up a brutal Islamic State cell dubbed ‘The Beatles’, speak during an interview with The Associated Press at a security center in Kobani, Syria, on March 30, 2018.(AP)

Beheadings were a ‘mistake’, say Islamic State jihadis of ‘The Beatles’ cell

The jihadists were part of a four member Islamic State cell dubbed ‘The Beatles’ (due to their British accents). The carried out beheadings, often on camera, of seven American, British and Japanese journalists and aid workers and a group of Syrian soldiers.
By HT Correspondent | Associated Press, Kobani (Syria)
UPDATED ON MAR 31, 2018 10:05 AM IST

Two British militants believed to have been part of an Islamic State group cell notorious for beheading hostages in Syria were unapologetic in their first interview since their capture, denouncing the US and Britain as “hypocrites” who will not give them a fair trial.

The men, along with two other British jihadis, allegedly made up the IS cell nicknamed ‘The Beatles’ by surviving captives because of their English accents.

The nickname belied the cell’s brutality. In 2014 and 2015, it held more than 20 Western hostages in Syria and tortured many of them. It beheaded seven American, British and Japanese journalists and aid workers and a group of Syrian soldiers, boasting of the butchery in videos released to the world.

Speaking to The Associated Press at a Kurdish security centre, the two men, El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Amon Kotey, repeatedly refused to address allegations they were part of the cell — clearly having a future trial in mind. They complained that they could “disappear” after Britain reportedly revoked their citizenship.

They were captured in January in eastern Syria by the Kurdish-led, US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces amid the collapse of IS. Their detention has set off a debate in the US and Europe over how to prosecute their citizens who joined IS — as the Kurds pressure the West to take them back to relieve overcrowding in prisons.

The two said the killings of the captives were a mistake — but for tactical reasons.

Many in IS “would have disagreed” with the killings “on the grounds that there is probably more benefit in them being political prisoners,” Kotey said.

“I didn’t see any benefit (in killing them). It was something that was regrettable.” He also blamed Western governments for failing to negotiate, noting that some hostages were released for ransoms.

Elsheikh said the killings were a “mistake” and might not have been justified. But, he said, they were in retaliation for killings of civilians by the US-led coalition fighting IS. He said the militants shouldn’t have initially threatened to kill the hostages because then they had to go ahead with it or else “your credibility may go.”

The beheadings, often carried out on camera, horrified the world soon after IS took over much of Iraq and Syria in 2014. The group also committed widescale atrocities including massacring thousands of Iraqi troops and civilians and taking sex slaves.

The first victim was American journalist James Foley, followed by fellow Americans Steven Sotloff and Peter Kassig, British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning and Japanese journalists Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto.

Speaking to the AP on Friday, Foley’s mother, Diane Foley, called on the international community and US government “to have the courage to hold these men accountable in an open trial where we can face them and they can hear all the pain and suffering they’ve inflicted on the world. And so that the rest of the world can understand the atrocity of their crimes.”

She said she opposes the death penalty for them since it feeds jihadi “desire for martyrdom and heroic afterlife.”

“These men do not deserve that. They deserve to be held in solitary confinement for the rest of their lives.”

The leader of the cell, Mohammed Emwazi, was dubbed “Jihadi John” in the British media after he appeared, masked, in the videos, sometimes performing the butchery. He was killed in a US-led coalition drone strike in 2015 in the Syrian city of Raqqa, the de facto IS capital. Another member, Aine Lesley Davis, was arrested in Turkey and convicted there in 2017, sentenced to seven years in prison.

Elsheikh, whose family came to Britain from Sudan when he was a child, was a mechanic from White City in west London.

He traveled to Syria in 2012, initially joining al-Qaida’s branch before moving on to IS, according to the US State Department’s listing of the two men for terrorism sanctions. It said he “earned a reputation for waterboarding, mock executions and crucifixions while serving as an (IS) jailer.”

Kotey, who is of Ghanaian and Greek-Cypriot descent and converted to Islam in his 20s, is from London’s Paddington neighbourhood.

Serving in the IS cell as a guard, he “likely engaged in the group’s executions and exceptionally cruel torture methods,” the State Department said. It also said he was an IS recruiter who brought other Britons into the group.

Elsheikh and Kotey spoke to the AP at a Kurdish security building in the town of Kobani, where they were brought, initially in handcuffs and face covers that were removed. They appeared to speak openly with no signs of duress and were friendly with SDF security who came in and out of the room.

They were both initially confrontational but over the interview became more conversational. Kotey often cracked jokes — when asked whether IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was alive, he joked that some people thought Elvis never died and Tupac Shakur is still alive. Elsheikh was straightlaced and reserved, referring more often to Islamic texts.

They were unrepentant about belonging to IS — though they said they did not agree with everything it did. Kotey said he did not think suicide bombings were permissible in Islam. Elsheikh said IS’s killing of a captured Jordanian pilot by burning him alive in a cage was “atrocious.”

But they seemed dismissive of the idea that IS was egregious in brutality.

“I am not here to justify or shun every act IS did,” Elsheikh said, arguing that nationals of a country can’t be held responsible for crimes by the state.

They scoffed at the idea that that they were a cell and refused to comment whether they had worked as jailors, had ever seen any hostages or knew Emwazi.

They depicted the allegations as created by media and foreign intelligence — “so the world can say this is the bad guy and kill the bad guy,” Elsheikh said.

“No fair trial, when I am ‘the Beatle’ in the media. No fair trial,” he added.

They said they had been questioned repeatedly by US military officials and the FBI — daily interrogations for a month, then frequent ones for weeks after.

The US has been pressing for the home countries of foreign jihadis in Iraq and Syria to take their nationals for trial. Britain’s defense secretary has said they should not be allowed back into the country. Former captives of the cell and families of its victims have called on Elsheikh and Kotey to be given a fair trial, whether in the United States or Britain, arguing that locking them away in a a facility like Guantanamo Bay would only fuel further radicalism.

Kurdish officials complain they are being left to deal with the IS legacy, including overburdened prisons full of militants, including foreign fighters whose home countries don’t want to take them back.

Elsheikh and Kotey are held in an undisclosed location. Kotey said he shares a cell with 70 others, all but four of them Syrians, and that they are sleeping like “sardines, literally head to toe, head to toe.” Despite the overcrowding, he said, they get fresh air, play games and have classes.

Kotey said the US and Britain were not upholding their own laws of due process. “Where are they now or are they just applicable when they suit you?” he said. “It just looks very hypocritical, double standards.”

The two denounced as “illegal” the British government’s reported decision in February to strip them of citizenship. The decision was widely reported in British media, though officials have not confirmed or denied it, citing privacy rules.

The revocation exposes them to “rendition and torture,” Elsheikh said.

“When you have these two guys who don’t even have any citizenship ...if we just disappear one day, where is my mom going to go and say where is my son,” he said.

“I found it strange that they could actually do that, revoke the citizenship of a person,” Kotey said.

“I was born in the UK,” he said. “My mother was born in the UK. I have a daughter there in the UK. ... I probably never left the UK more than 3 months” before coming to Syria.

Kotey said the fairest venue for a trial may be the International Criminal Court in The Hague in the Netherlands. “That would be the logical solution.”

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
The US pivot to Asia — in response to and as an acknowledgement of China as a growing threat — started under Barack Obama, and then gathered steam on Donald Trump’s watch with the renaming of the US military’s Pacific Command as the Indo-Pacific Command.(Bloomberg)
The US pivot to Asia — in response to and as an acknowledgement of China as a growing threat — started under Barack Obama, and then gathered steam on Donald Trump’s watch with the renaming of the US military’s Pacific Command as the Indo-Pacific Command.(Bloomberg)

Joe Biden pledges deeper ties in Indo-Pacific in national security plan

By Yashwant Raj
PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 12:42 AM IST
  • It has been taken to a different level by the Biden administration, accorded the same significance as Europe, which has dominated US diplomatic and military thinking and spending for more than a century now, starting with World War I.
Close
The number of new coronavirus cases has risen in Europe after six weeks of decline, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.(AP)
The number of new coronavirus cases has risen in Europe after six weeks of decline, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.(AP)

EU reviews Russia’s jab amid fresh spike

Agencies, Moscow
PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 12:36 AM IST
  • The regulator said the review is based on results from research in adults, which suggests the vaccine may help protect against the coronavirus.
Close
In January, the European Commission introduced legislation which allows curbs on exports of coronavirus vaccines if drugmakers fail to meet delivery targets within the bloc.(REUTERS)
In January, the European Commission introduced legislation which allows curbs on exports of coronavirus vaccines if drugmakers fail to meet delivery targets within the bloc.(REUTERS)

Italy blocks Astra Covid vaccine export, risks backlash against EU

Posted by Harshit Sabarwal | Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 11:03 PM IST
The decision comes after Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi called during an EU summit last week for a tougher approach against companies that don’t respect their delivery commitments.
Close
Diana’s brother. Charles Spencer, has alleged that Bashir used false documents, including fake bank statements, and other dishonest tactics to convince Diana to agree to the interview.(AP)
Diana’s brother. Charles Spencer, has alleged that Bashir used false documents, including fake bank statements, and other dishonest tactics to convince Diana to agree to the interview.(AP)

UK police won't probe journalist over 1995 Princess Diana interview

Posted by Harshit Sabarwal | AP
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 11:00 PM IST
The Metropolitan Police force said “no further action will be taken” over allegations journalist Martin Bashir used illegal subterfuge to get the interview.
Close
The company is planning to start building the hotel, Voyager Station, in the low Earth orbit in 2025.(Orbital Assembly Corporation)
The company is planning to start building the hotel, Voyager Station, in the low Earth orbit in 2025.(Orbital Assembly Corporation)

World’s first space hotel with artificial gravity expected to open in 2027

By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Kunal Gaurav
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 10:43 PM IST
  • With over 11,600 square metres of habitable space, the commercial station will have many features expected in a cruise ship.
Close
Addressing the World Sustainable Development Summit on Wednesday, Jaishankar said India currently had the fastest-growing solar energy programme in the world.(Unsplash)
Addressing the World Sustainable Development Summit on Wednesday, Jaishankar said India currently had the fastest-growing solar energy programme in the world.(Unsplash)

Italy sees sharpest fall in energy demand since WWII due to pandemic: Report

Posted by Harshit Sabarwal | Reuters
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 10:43 PM IST
Italian energy and technology research centre ENEA said energy demand in the country slumped 10% last year, driven by a 60% fall in oil consumption.
Close
National Guard walk near the Capitol on March 4, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP)
National Guard walk near the Capitol on March 4, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP)

Police request 60-day extension of Guard at US Capitol

Posted by Harshit Sabarwal | AP
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 10:33 PM IST
The request underscores the continuing concerns about security and the potential for violence at the Capitol, two months after rioters breached the building in violence that left five people dead.
Close
More than 60,000 people reported feeling the quake on GeoNet's website, with 282 describing the shaking as "severe" and 75 saying it was "extreme".(PTI file photo. Representative image)
More than 60,000 people reported feeling the quake on GeoNet's website, with 282 describing the shaking as "severe" and 75 saying it was "extreme".(PTI file photo. Representative image)

Strong quake shakes New Zealand, but no damage reported and tsunami threat eases

Posted by Harshit Sabarwal | Reuters
UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2021 10:23 PM IST
"There is no longer a tsunami threat from this earthquake," PTWC said in a statement. There were no immediate reports of damage, but the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) advised people in some coastal areas to move immediately to high ground.
Close
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during a virtual meeting with the House Democratic Caucus in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. Biden has agreed to moderate Democrats' demands to narrow eligibility for stimulus checks, but rejected a push to trim extra unemployment benefits, as he tries to win support for his $1.9 trillion pandemic-relief bill, according to a Democratic aide. Photographer: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg(Bloomberg)
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during a virtual meeting with the House Democratic Caucus in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. Biden has agreed to moderate Democrats' demands to narrow eligibility for stimulus checks, but rejected a push to trim extra unemployment benefits, as he tries to win support for his $1.9 trillion pandemic-relief bill, according to a Democratic aide. Photographer: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg(Bloomberg)

White House says relief checks to go to most who got December payment

Posted by Kunal Gaurav | AP
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 10:19 PM IST
  • Under the Senate bill, anyone earning up to $75,000 qualifies for the full $1,400 with the payment being cut off entirely at $80,000.
Close
Globally, 265 million doses of vaccines have been administered, with 80% in just 10 countries, WHO's top emergency expert Mike Ryan said on social media on Wednesday night.(AFP)
Globally, 265 million doses of vaccines have been administered, with 80% in just 10 countries, WHO's top emergency expert Mike Ryan said on social media on Wednesday night.(AFP)

Waive Covid vaccine patents to benefit poor nations, activists say

Posted by Harshit Sabarwal | Reuters
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 10:00 PM IST
Activists seeking a waiver of intellectual property rules unfurled a huge sign reading "No Covid Monopolies - Wealthy Countries Stop Blocking TRIPS Waiver" in the park next to World Trade Organization's (WTO's) headquarters on Lake Geneva.
Close
Pope Francis begins his historic trip to war-scarred Iraq tomorrow to comfort one of the world's oldest and most persecuted Christian communities.(AFP)
Pope Francis begins his historic trip to war-scarred Iraq tomorrow to comfort one of the world's oldest and most persecuted Christian communities.(AFP)

Iraq beefs up security for pope amid rising violence, pandemic

Posted by Kunal Gaurav | Reuters, Baghdad
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 09:38 PM IST
Security forces and armoured vehicles filled otherwise empty streets surrounding two cordoned-off churches the pope is scheduled to go to in central Baghdad.
Close
Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan announced on Thursday he would seek a vote of confidence in the National Assembly this weekend to prove he still has the support of majority lawmakers despite the shock defeat of the finance minister in the Senate's elections.(File Photo/REUTERS)
Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan announced on Thursday he would seek a vote of confidence in the National Assembly this weekend to prove he still has the support of majority lawmakers despite the shock defeat of the finance minister in the Senate's elections.(File Photo/REUTERS)

‘If I lose, …’: PM Imran Khan’s emotional pitch ahead of trust vote this week

By HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2021 09:50 PM IST
  • Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan insisted that he wouldn’t abandon his campaign against corruption even if loses the trust vote.
Close
From a high of 39,090 in 2010-11 to a low of 16,550 in 2016-17, there has been a steady downward spiral of Indian students coming to the UK, but for the first time in recent years, the number is on the upswing(Reuters/ Representative Image)
From a high of 39,090 in 2010-11 to a low of 16,550 in 2016-17, there has been a steady downward spiral of Indian students coming to the UK, but for the first time in recent years, the number is on the upswing(Reuters/ Representative Image)

New UK post-study graduate route to open for Indian students in July

PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 09:02 PM IST
  • The UK has also extended concessions for students unable to travel to the UK after getting admission to British educational institutions because of the Covid-19 pandemic. This was done due to the continuing disruption in international travel.
Close
Sakae Kato plays with cats that he rescued, called Mokkun and Charm, who are both infected with feline leukemia virus, at his home, in a restricted zone in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan.(Reuters)
Sakae Kato plays with cats that he rescued, called Mokkun and Charm, who are both infected with feline leukemia virus, at his home, in a restricted zone in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan.(Reuters)

Wider Image: The man who saves forgotten cats in Fukushima's nuclear zone

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 08:54 PM IST
The 57-year-old, a small construction business owner in his former life, says his decision to stay as 160,000 other people evacuated the area was spurred in part by the shock of finding dead pets in abandoned houses he helped demolish.
Close
French President Emmanuel Macron in Bobigny near Paris.(Reuters)
French President Emmanuel Macron in Bobigny near Paris.(Reuters)

French President Macron could still squeeze in a pension reform: Le Maire

Bloomberg
UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2021 08:56 PM IST
  • According to Le Maire, a pension reform to address the financial imbalances in the country’s system is still possible before voters head to the polls in April 2022.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP