The last two members of the notorious British terror cell dubbed ‘The Beatles’ were stripped of their UK citizenship even before they were captured in Syria, it emerged yesterday.
Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh were henchmen of Mohammed Emwazi – Jihadi John – who beheaded hostages including British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning on camera.
The extremists, both dual nationals, had their UK citizenship taken away by the Home Office to stop them re-entering the country.
Alexanda Kotey (left) and El Shafee Elsheikh (right) were henchmen of Mohammed Emwazi – Jihadi John – who beheaded hostages including British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning on camera. Both had their citizenship stripped even before their capture, it emerged
The Government said it was happy for the two Islamic State jihadists to stand trial on terror and murder charges in America, ensuring the pair face justice in a court of law.
But one former hostage of the gang said he did not want Donald Trump to detain the pair in Guantanamo Bay, the US military prison in Cuba. Nicolas Henin, a French journalist. said depriving terrorists of their rights turns them into victims.
Last night officers from the CIA and MI6 were interrogating Kotey, 34, and Elsheikh, 29, in a bid to prise out information about the terror group.
One source said the captives were potentially a ‘treasure trove’ of intelligence.
The pair, along with Emwazi, 27, and Aine Davis, 33, were known as The Beatles because of their English accents.
Kotey was caught while on the run from IS trying to smuggle himself back into Europe, ITV News reported last night.
The four west Londoners, who revelled in the torture, murder and humiliation of their prisoners, slaughtered at least 27 hostages during the Islamist uprising in Iraq and Syria.
The pair, along with Emwazi (pictured), 27, and Aine Davis, 33, were known as The Beatles because of their English accents. Emwazi, who was killed in a US air strike in 2015, appeared in a number of videos in which captives including David Haines and Alan Henning were killed
Emwazi was killed in a drone strike two years ago. Davis was convicted of terrorism offences and jailed for seven and a half years in Turkey last year.
Kotey and Elsheikh were captured by the Kurdish-led US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, which were battling the last remaining pockets of IS fighters in January. They were handed to American special operations forces who confirmed their identities using fingerprints and other biometric data.
Kotey, a half-Ghanaian, half-Greek Cypriot nicknamed Ringo, and Elsheikh, who fled Sudan with his family aged five and was known as George, had been deprived of their UK passports on national security grounds after they travelled to Syria.
Emwazi (pictured) was killed in a drone strike two years ago. Davis was convicted of terrorism offences and jailed for seven and a half years in Turkey last year
Between 2006 and 2015 at least 81 deprivations of citizenship orders were made including 36 because it was ‘conducive to the public good’, but reports have put the number as high as 150 for those fighting with IS.
It means they are not allowed back into the UK. Security sources said UK foreign fighters were increasingly having citizenship removed so they did not have to be dealt with in the UK courts if they are captured. Officials fear that if UK jihadis are sent back to Britain much of the evidence could be inadmissible in the courts, for instance if they had been tortured and mistreated by local forces, and they would be set free on the streets.
Whitehall sources said there was a small chance the pair could stand trial in the UK but other countries were ‘in front of us in the queue’. The insider said: ‘We just want them brought to justice and banged up.’
Another source said: ‘When we stripped their citizenship, we washed our hands of them.’ It is not clear if the US Justice Department will eventually prosecute the pair or if the military will take custody of them.
Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway, from the US Department of Defence, said: ‘We are still considering options regarding Elsheikh and Kotey, but our intention is to hold anyone accountable who commits acts like those they are alleged to have committed.’
He confirmed that Kotey and Elsheikh were being held in a ‘detention location’ in Syria.
How the two Beatles were snared by their fingerprints… and may already be handing over vital information
Kotey and Elsheikh were captured by the Kurdish-led Syrian democratic forces and identified by fingerprints and other biometric means, according to anonymous U.S. officials speaking to the New York Times.
They were carrying mobile phones and other electronic equipment, which intelligence officials have gleaned for information.
American spies will be especially keen to quiz the pair on the locations of surviving ISIS militants hiding out along the Euphrates River Valley near the border between Syria and Iraq.
And officials will hope the men will have information about other hostages, such as the British journalist John Cantlie, who was abducted with his U.S. colleague James Foley in 2012 and has appeared in a series of ISIS propaganda videos.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: ‘These people have turned their back on Britain, killed innocents and tried to bring terror to the streets of our country. I am glad they have been hunted down and now is time for them to be held to account and pay the price for their barbaric crimes.’
Tory MP Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Commons foreign affairs select committee, said: ‘Those who take up arms against their country are traitors.
‘These jihadists deserve to have the full force of the law used against them… But it is important that we use the law not brutal, summary justice of the kind these men used on their victims.’
The US State Department says Muslim convert Kotey took part in the torture of hostages and acted as a recruiter for IS. Elsheikh, a former mechanic who supported Queens Park Rangers, ‘earned a reputation for waterboarding, mock executions, and crucifixions’, it said. Both men are designated terrorists by the US, which says they have used ‘exceptionally cruel torture methods’.
British intelligence and military officials were made aware of the capture last month. UK officials hope it will lead to information on the fate of John Cantlie, the British journalist who has been in IS captivity since 2012.
The pair could also answer questions about what happened to the British fighters as the so-called caliphate disintegrated, including how many returned home.
A senior US official said Kotey and Elsheikh had provided valuable details about the remaining IS leadership and support structure.