Foreign Relations & International Law Terrorism & Extremism

Justice Department Charges Two Islamic State Members for Executing Americans

Jacob Schulz
Wednesday, October 7, 2020, 12:04 PM

Published by The Lawfare Institute
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The Justice Department charged two men—Alexanda Amon Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh—with eight counts in connection to a series of hostage takings and executions in Syria. The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia charged the former British nationals with conspiracy to commit hostage taking resulting in death, hostage taking resulting in death, conspiracy to murder United States citizens outside of the United States, along with two material support charges. The indictment charges the men—who are often referred to as "The Beatles" because of their British accents—with murdering U.S. citizens Kayla Mueller, James Foley, Steven Sotloff and Peter Edward Kassig, among others. A Justice Department press release indicates that the men are expected to arrive today in the Eastern District of Virigina in FBI custody.

The indictment follows a protracted battle over the fate of the two men. The U.S.-allied Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) detained the men in early 2018 and the United Kingdom stripped the men of their British citizenship around the same time. The U.K. had initially declined to share evidence with the U.S. about the men's alleged criminal activity after then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions declined to make assurances that the men wouldn't face the death penalty in U.S. court. But Attorney General William Barr sent a letter to British Home Secretary Priti Patel in August to offer "assurance that, if the Kingdom grants our mutual legal assistance request, the United States will not seek the death penalty in any prosecutions" against the two men. In response, Britain acquiesced and sent evidence about the two men to the Justice Department on September 22.

The indictment can be read here and below:

Jacob Schulz is the former managing editor of Lawfare. He previously served as deputy managing editor and associate editor. He hails from Pennylvania and attended Amherst College.

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