Islamic State’s ‘Beatle’: Traffic tickets have no basis in law, but slavery is okay

El Shafee Elsheikh and the other members of his Islamic State cell — nicknamed the Beatles because of their British accents — are accused of beheading seven American, British and Japanese journalists and aid workers.

world Updated: Apr 08, 2018 22:21 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
El Shafee Elsheikh,Islamic State,the Beatles
A screengrab from the interview of British militant El Shafee Elsheikh.(Courtesy: akhbaralaan.net )

British militant El Shafee Elsheikh, who was part of an Islamic State cell notorious for beheading hostages, said he felt traffic tickets in the now-crumbled caliphate had “no basis in the law of Allah”, but appeared to defend the imprisonment of Yazidi women, claiming slavery was “around since humans have been around”.

Elsheikh and the other members of his cell — nicknamed the Beatles because of their British accents — are accused of beheading seven American, British and Japanese journalists and aid workers. They were captured in January in Syria by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

When asked in an interview for Dubai-based Arabic Al Aan TV as to what he felt about being dubbed “the Beatles of Islamic State”, he said “John Lennon won’t like it much,” but added he didn’t listen to any music.

Asked about his imprisonment, he said: “It’s like any other jail. You eat. You sleep. You wait to be interrogated.”

He said he had been questioned by the US government and the SDF, adding there was “no British involvement”.

“Before it was the department of defence. It was okay. There were some respectable people. Then they brought some less respectable people. Then they brought the FBI, the least respectable out of the bunch,” Elsheikh said, adding that he had not been offered any deals.

Elsheikh’s family migrated to Britain from Sudan when he was a child. He had been a mechanic in London before he travelled to Syria, where he “earned a reputation for waterboarding, mock executions and crucifixions while serving as an (IS) jailer,” according to an AP report.

He refused to be drawn into questions about beatings and tortures carried out by him, saying: “There is an ongoing legal process, and when they decide to get on with it, then we can talk about any accusations made against me or anyone else, so let’s make a clear distinction between being a part of an organisation or a state or group and agreeing with everything they do.”

He said there were certain things about IS laws he did not agree with. “Traffic tickets. Such things have no basis in the law of Allah.”

But when specifically asked about the imprisonment of Yazidi women by IS, he refused to denounce slavery.

“You have to understand that just because America decided to abolish something... doesn’t mean that every person has to run behind America and say ‘this is now an abominable act’...The reality is that slavery has been around since humans have been around,” he said.

Asked why he chose to go to Syria when that country’s people were fleeing to Europe, Elsheikh sounded dismissive.

“Syrians say they want to go to Europe because they don’t know the realities of Europe...They are jealous of the lives they lead. They are self-sufficient. They keep close to their families. There’s not as much evil and corruption in their societies.

“But they look at buildings and opportunities and money and they want to go over there and they end up breaking ties with their families, learning corruption...Every environment has corruption but nothing beats the West.”

Asked about life in Raqqa, he painted a very idyllic scenario: “Life is like everywhere else.”

Halfway through the interview, when asked about whether some of the victims of the more gruesome executions had received a fair trial, Elsheikh claimed he was “as much in the dark as you are.” He also said he “did not enjoy” watching the execution videos.

He was again questioned about the “trials” given to those executed and was asked about his role in them, he lost his temper, abruptly saying: “I think we’re done.”

First Published: Apr 08, 2018 22:21 IST