US charges British IS members in deaths of American hostages

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two Islamic State (IS) militants from Britain were brought to the United States (US) on Wednesday night to face charges in a gruesome campaign of torture, beheadings and other acts of violence against four Americans and others captured and held hostage in Syria.

El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey are two of four men who were dubbed “the Beatles” by the hostages because of the captors’ British accents. The two men made their first appearance on Wednesday in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, where a federal grand jury issued an eight-count indictment that accuses them of being “leading participants in a brutal hostage-taking scheme” that resulted in the deaths of Western hostages, including American journalist James Foley.

The charges are a milestone in a years-long effort by US authorities to bring to justice members of the group known for beheadings and barbaric treatment of aid workers, journalists and other hostages in Syria.

The case underscores the Justice Department’s commitment to prosecuting in American civilian court militants captured overseas, said Assistant Attorney General John Demers, who vowed that other extremists “will be pursued to the ends of the earth”. The defendants’ arrival in the US sets the stage for one of the more sensational terrorism prosecutions in recent years.

“If you have American blood in your veins or American blood on your hands, you will face American justice,” said Demers.

The two men made brief court appearances on Wednesday via video hookup from the Alexandria jail, where they were appointed a federal defender. The attorney who heads that office declined to comment after the proceedings. A detention hearing and arraignment were set for today.

File photo shows a security officer escorting Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh at a security centre in Kobani, Syria. PHOTO: AP