Alexanda Kotey, 37, changed his plea at a hearing in a federal court in Virginia on Thursday, admitting to a role in the abduction and execution of two US journalists and two relief workers. He will not face the death penalty, under the terms of his extradition by the UK, which had stripped Kotey of citizenship due to his membership in the terrorist group.
Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, 33, were captured in Syria by the US-backed Kurdish militia in 2018. They were identified as members of “the Beatles,” a cell made up of English-speaking jihadists that pledged allegiance to the self-proclaimed “caliphate” set up in parts of Syria and Iraq.
The duo was charged in the deaths of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, as well as aid workers Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller. Prosecutors said Kotey and Elsheikh supervised the facility where the captives were held and engaged in “a prolonged pattern of physical and psychological violence against hostages.”
In their initial appearance before Judge T.S. Ellis last October, Kotey pleaded not guilty. He changed that plea this week, Ellis said at a video hearing. The judge also said that Kotey had “agreed to cooperate fully and truthfully with the United States and provide the government with all the information you know about any criminal activity,” including beyond what was in the indictment against him.
“Kotey has been afforded due process and, in the face of overwhelming evidence, he made the independent decision to plead guilty to his crimes. The justice, fairness, and humanity that this defendant received in the United States stand in stark contrast to the cruelty, inhumanity, and indiscriminate violence touted by the terrorist organization he espoused,” said acting US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Raj Parekh.
Contrary to the propaganda perpetuated by ISIS, we have given Alexanda Kotey the opportunity to face justice
Of the remaining two “Beatles,” Aine Davis is in a Turkish prison after being convicted on charges of terrorism, while Mohamed Emwazi, also known as “Jihadi John,” was killed in a US airstrike in November 2015.
The terrorists beheaded Foley in August 2014, after US special forces attempted a rescue operation. He was the first American to be executed by the terrorist group. The video of Sotloff’s beheading was released three weeks later, on September 2. Kassig was beheaded in November that year, even though he converted to Islam in captivity.
Mueller, who was captured in Aleppo in 2013, was reportedly given as a sex slave to IS “caliph” Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. The militants claimed she was killed in a February 2015 air raid on their “capital” of Raqqa, conducted by Jordan in retaliation for their execution of a captive Jordanian pilot. The US claimed that she was bludgeoned to death by Al-Baghdadi. The 2019 US raid that resulted in the death of al-Baghdadi was carried out by ‘Task Force 8-14’, named after Mueller’s birthday.
“Today is also a painful anniversary. Seven years ago, the world was devastated by images depicting the death of Steven Sotloff,” Parekh added. “Today, through the voices and lives of the victims, Justice spoke, and it is those words that will resonate through history.”
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