(New York, N.Y.) — Last week, El Shafee Elsheikh, the U.S.-designated British member of the ISIS cell known as the “The Beatles,” was found guilty of conspiracy related to the kidnapping and torture that led to the murder of four American hostages. The hostages James Foley, Steven Sotloff, and Peter Kassig were beheaded, and Kayla Mueller was enslaved and tortured for a year and a half before being killed by the terrorist group. Nearly eight years after ISIS released videos of the beheadings across social media, Elsheikh was convicted on eight charges, including four counts of hostage-taking resulting in death, murder conspiracy, and conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist organization. Elsheikh faces a life sentence and is scheduled to be sentenced on August 12.
“The brutal and violent deaths of hostages at the hands of ISIS, and the propagation of them on social media afterwards, was a tragic and avoidable occurrence,” said Counter Extremism Project (CEP) Senior Director Dr. Hans-Jakob Schindler, formerly the coordinator of the U.N. Security Council’s ISIL (Da’esh), al-Qaida, and Taliban Sanctions Monitoring Team. “Although progress has been made by tech companies in the years since then, ISIS has found more ways to leverage technology to its advantage. Terrorism that is further fueled by online tools must remain a core concern in order to prevent a similar occurrence. This industry has been exempted from legal responsibility for the harm their services cause for far too long. Only through effective regulation that creates legal and commercial incentives for these companies to do better in defending their sites against terrorists’ misuse can this issue be addressed sustainably and effectively.”
Led by deceased ISIS executioner Mohammed Emwazi, a.k.a. Jihadi John, The Beatles also included British citizens Aine Davis and Alexanda Amon Kotey. Together with Elsheikh, the four were responsible for holding captive and beheading 27 hostages. Emwazi was killed in a 2015 drone strike in Syria, and Kotey pleaded guilty to his own charges last September. Davis is currently imprisoned in Turkey.
According to the Guardian, prosecutors told the jury during the trial that Elsheikh was a “senior leader who took particular pleasure in mistreating the hostages he held captive.” Based on testimonies of hostage survivors, it was revealed that Elsheikh took pleasure in brutally abusing those he held captive. Additionally, Didier Francois—a French journalist held prisoner by The Beatles for 10 months—told CNN in 2015 that The Beatles would regularly stage fake executions. In its announcement that it had designated Elsheikh, the U.S. Department of State stated that he had “a reputation for waterboarding, mock executions, and crucifixions while serving as an ISIS jailer.”
To read CEP’s profile El Shafee Elsheikh, please click here.
To read CEP’s resource ISIS, please click here.