British IS fighters taken into US custody, says Trump

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Media captionInterview with Islamic State ‘Beatles’ duo

Two of the so-called “IS Beatles” have been taken out of Syria to “a secure location controlled by the US”, President Donald Trump has said.

El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey are accused of being part of an Islamic State group cell which kidnapped and murdered Western hostages in Syria.

The pair – who are from London – are in the custody of the American military, according to US media reports.

In a tweet, Mr Trump described them as “the worst of the worst”.

He said the decision to remove them from Syria had been taken “in case the Kurds or Turkey lose control”.

The news comes after the US withdrew its forces from the region this week.

The New York Times and Washington Post say the pair have been removed from a prison run by Kurdish militia in northern Syria.

Other members of the IS cell – dubbed “The Beatles” because of their British accents – included Mohammed Emwazi, known as Jihadi John, who was killed in a US air strike in 2015, and Aine Davis, who has been jailed in Turkey.

Emwazi is thought to have killed US journalist James Foley in 2014.

The New York Times reports that the US is planning to take Mr Elsheikh and Mr Kotey to Virginia, where they will be put on trial.

Image copyright
unknown/HO via Met Police, Kotey, Handout

Image caption

Mohammed Emwazi, Aine Davis, Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh (l to r)

It remains to be seen whether the evidence against the pair amassed by British investigators will be handed over in full to US authorities.

Former Prime Minister Theresa May, when she was home secretary in 2015, told Washington the UK would only hand over evidence after receiving a categorical guarantee that neither man would be executed.

The UK has long sought and obtained such a death penalty assurance from the US.

That position was reiterated by Mrs May’s successor, Amber Rudd, but then reversed after Sajid Javid entered the Home Office in April 2018.

Mr Javid decided to hand over 600 witness statements, without seeking any kind of guarantee that Mr Elsheikh and Mr Kotey would not be put to death.

Mr Elsheikh’s mother, Maha Elgizouli challenged the decision but, in January, lost that case in the High Court.

The issue is currently being decided by the UK Supreme Court.

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