The Beatles (terrorist cell)

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"The Beatles", dubbed as such by their hostages because of their English accents, was an Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militant group. Its members were nicknamed "John", "Paul", "George", and "Ringo" by the hostages, after the four members of the British rock group the Beatles. In November 2015, one of the militants was killed and one was arrested, and the final two were caught in early 2018.

They are responsible for beheadings in Iraq and Syria, most notably as shown in the beheading videos of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning, in 2014. The group also guarded more than 20 Western hostages of ISIL in Western Raqqa, Syria. They were harsher than other ISIL guards, torturing captives with electroshock weapons and subjecting them to mock executions (including a crucifixion) and waterboarding.

Activities[edit]

The Beatles were a group of four, [1] or three,[2] British Muslims fighting for the extremist, jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Its members were nicknamed "John", "Paul", "George", and "Ringo" by the hostages, after the four members of the British rock group The Beatles.[1]

They took hostages; guarded more than 20 Western hostages of ISIL in cramped cells in Western Raqqa, Syria; beheaded hostages; and memorialized their acts in beheading videos that they made public.[3][4][5][6][7]

They always kept their faces hidden.[8]

Guarding, torturing, and seeking ransoms for hostages[edit]

The Beatles, who were assigned responsibility for guarding foreign hostages by ISIL commanders, were harsher than other ISIL guards.[9][10] One source said: "Whenever the Beatles showed up, there was some kind of physical beating or torture."[11] They were the most feared of the jihadists because of their taste for the macabre and their beatings, use of electric shock Taser guns, mock executions (including a crucifixion of Foley), and waterboarding, according to a freed French hostage.[12]

Because of their excessive brutality, at one point they were removed from their guard duties by ISIL.[13]

The Beatles were interested in obtaining ransoms for their hostages.[13] A former hostage reported that the Beatles bragged that they had been paid millions of dollars in ransoms by certain European countries; enough to retire to Kuwait or Qatar.[14] The group contacted families of some UK hostages, and are believed to have maintained links with their associates and friends in the UK.[10] James Foley's mother, Diane Foley, said in an interview: "their requests were impossible for us, 100 million Euros, or all Muslim prisoners to be freed. The requests from the terrorists were totally directed towards the government, really. And yet we as an American family had to figure out how to answer them."[15][16]

The Beatles cell held at least 23 foreign hostages, nearly all of whom were ransomed or killed.[7]

2014–2015 beheadings[edit]

Jihadi John beheaded or participated in the beheadings of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, as well as British humanitarian aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning, American aid worker Peter Kassig, Japanese private military contractor Haruna Yukawa, Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, and 22 members of the Syrian armed forces in a period from August 2014 to January 2015.[9][17]

A former ISIS member said that using a British man to carry out the beheadings was likely a deliberate effort by ISIS to "project the image that a European, or a Western person, killed an American so that they can ... appeal to others outside Syria and make them feel that they belong to the same cause."[18]

Hostages[edit]

In August 2014, it was claimed that there were more than 20 hostages remaining.[19] Many hostage families have chosen not to reveal their relatives' names in order to avoid drawing attention to them and compromising their safety.[20]

John Cantlie[edit]

Members[edit]

"John"[edit]

The jihadist known as "John", the leader of the Beatles and usually referred to as "Jihadi John",[21] was identified by The Washington Post, in February 2015, as Mohammed Emwazi, and appears in a video as Foley's killer. His identity was known to US and UK intelligence agencies in September 2014, but was not released for reasons of operational security.[22] On 12 November 2015, a United States drone aircraft reportedly conducted an airstrike in Raqqa that targeted Emwazi as he left a building and entered a vehicle.[23] US officials stated he had been killed, but his death had not been confirmed.[24] The US was still analysing the data.[25] The official called it a "flawless" and "clean hit" with no collateral damage and that Emwazi "evaporated".[24] A senior US military official was quoted as saying, "we are 99% sure we got him".[26] In January 2016, ISIL confirmed his death.[27]

"George"[edit]

"George" often spent time repeating sections of the Quran and promoting ISIL's extremist views publicly.[13][28] He uses the nom-de-guerre of "Abu Muhareb", which means "Fighter" in Arabic.[13][28] The Daily Telegraph erroneously speculated that "George" was the West London jihadist Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary who may have travelled to Syria with fellow jihadist Mohammed Emwazi.[29]

In 2016, Alexanda Kotey, a 32-year-old convert from west London, was identified as a member of the Beatles by The Washington Post and BuzzFeed News. They were uncertain whether he was "George" or "Ringo".[30][31]

A few months later, another joint investigation by the Washington Post and BuzzFeed identified the last member of the group. El Shafee Elsheikh, a British citizen whose family fled Sudan in the 1990s, is a Londoner who had travelled to Syria in 2012. They were still uncertain as to whether Elsheikh or Kotey was "George".[32][33]

In early January 2017, the US State Department froze the assets of Alexanda Kotey but did not confirm he was "George".[34] In late March 2017, the US State Department froze the assets of El Shafee Elsheikh but did not confirm he was "George".[35] In early 2018, Kurdish fighters caught both Kotey and Elsheikh in Syria near the border with Iraq, and handed them over to American officials, who confirmed their identities by biometrics and finger prints.[36][37] The British citizenship of both men has been revoked.[37]

According to a former hostage, Elsheikh was "George".[38]

"Ringo"[edit]

In 2016, Alexanda Kotey, a 32 year old convert from West London, was identified as a member of the Beatles by the Washington Post and BuzzFeed News. They were uncertain whether he was "George" or "Ringo".[30][31]

A few months later, another joint investigation by the Washington Post and BuzzFeed identified the last member of the group. El Shafee Elsheikh, a British citizen whose family fled Sudan in the 1990s, is a Londoner who had traveled to Syria in 2012. They were still uncertain as to whether Elsheikh or Kotey was "Ringo".[32][33]

In early January 2017, the U.S. State Department froze the assets of Alexanda Kotey but did not confirm he was "Ringo".[34] In late March 2017, the U.S. State Department froze the assets of El Shafee Elsheikh but did not confirm he was "Ringo".[39] In early 2018, Kurdish fighters caught both Kotey and Elsheikh in Syria near the border with Iraq, and handed them over to American officials, who confirmed their identities by biometrics and finger prints.[36][37]

According to a former hostage, Kotey was "Ringo".[40]

"Paul"[edit]

"Paul" played a smaller role in the group and did not appear until later in the detention of some of those held by the Islamic State.[30] Aine Lesley Davis, reported to have been one of the British Islamists assigned to guard Western hostages, was arrested in Turkey on 13 November 2015.[41] He was tried in Turkey in 2016 over allegations that he was plotting a terror attack there.[42] On 9 May 2017, he was convicted of terrorism offences by a Turkish court and sentenced to seven and a half years in prison.[43]

Reactions[edit]

The use of "Beatles" as a nickname for the group elicited a response from English musician and former Beatle Ringo Starr, who expressed his disgust at the use of his former band's name in this context, saying: "It's bullshit. What they are doing out there is against everything The Beatles stood for," and adding that the Beatles had stood for peace and opposed violence.[44]

Former British Prime Minister David Cameron said: "British people are sickened that a British citizen could be involved in murdering people – including a fellow British citizen who had gone to Syria to help people – in this way. It is the very opposite of what our peaceful, tolerant country stands for."[45]

Manhunt[edit]

A significant force of the British Special Air Service was deployed to Northern Iraq in late August 2014, and according to former MI6 chief Richard Barrett would be sent to Syria, tasked with trying to track down the Beatles using a range of high-tech equipment and with potentially freeing other hostages.[28][46][47][48] As of September 2014, British intelligence and security agencies, including MI5 and Scotland Yard, aided by GCHQ communication monitoring, were working with the FBI and CIA, and field teams from MI6 and the CIA in Northern Syria, to identify and locate the group. British and US electronic eavesdropping agencies have targeted communications by the group.[10]

Consideration of transfer to Guantanamo, Florence prison, or the Hague[edit]

On February 11, 2018, The Independent reported that the government of the United Kingdom was considering agreeing to transfer Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, the two remaining Beatles who were in Kurdish custody, to Guantanamo detention camps.[49]

Detention in Guantanamo could be indefinite and without charge. If transferred to the U.S. for a civilian trial and convicted, they would likely be incarcerated at ADX Florence, a supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.[49]

Another option under consideration is trial at the International Court of Justice in the Hague.[49] According to The Independent, the UK government would strip Kotey and Elsheikh of UK citizenship prior to agreeing to transfer them to the Hague.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Two Members of Jihadi John's 'Beatles' Execution Cell Named as Alexe Kotey and Aine Davis". Newsweek. 8 February 2016. 
  2. ^ "British Isis militant in James Foley video 'guards foreign hostages in Syria'". The Guardian. 20 August 2014. 
  3. ^ Peter Bergen (14 September 2014). "The British connection to ISIS beheadings". CNN. Retrieved 18 September 2014. 
  4. ^ "Siria, l'Isis uccide 500 persone a Raqqa". Affaritaliani (in Italian). 25 August 2014. Retrieved 17 September 2014. 
  5. ^ "Offensiva dell'Is in Siria, 500 morti. Londra: vicini a identificare il boia di Foley". La Repubblica (in Italian). 24 August 2014. Retrieved 17 September 2014. 
  6. ^ Lucy Westcott (21 August 2014). "The Search for 'Jihadi John,' Brutal Murderer of American Journalist James Foley". Newsweek. Retrieved 18 September 2014. 
  7. ^ a b "James Foley beheading: Hunt on for 'British' jihadist". BBC News. 20 August 2014. Retrieved 15 September 2014. 
  8. ^ Stéphanie De Silguy (26 August 2014). "L . Jinny est-il devenu "John le jihadiste"?". Libération (in French). Retrieved 17 September 2014. 
  9. ^ a b "British ISIS Militants Dubbed 'Beatles' Guarded Syria Hostages". NBC News. 21 August 2014. Retrieved 16 September 2014. 
  10. ^ a b c "FBI claims to have identified Isis militant Jihadi John". Financial Times. Retrieved 28 September 2014. 
  11. ^ "ISIS 'Waterboarded' James Foley: Sources". NBC News. 29 August 2014. Retrieved 17 September 2014. 
  12. ^ Lakshman Menon (23 August 2014). "UK launches manhunt for Foley's British killer; MI5 and Scotland Yard have joined forces with the FBI to track 'Jailer John,' part of four British terrorists called 'the Beatles'". The Sunday Guardian. Retrieved 18 September 2014. 
  13. ^ a b c d "British ISIS militants are sadists they tortured us with Tasers say Ex hostages". Daily Bhaskar. Retrieved 17 September 2014. 
  14. ^ "US, UK eye rapper as British-born militant who beheaded journalist James Foley". Fox News. 24 August 2014. Retrieved 18 September 2014. 
  15. ^ Foley, Diane (12 September 2014). "Part 2 of Anderson's interview with Diane Foley". AC360 (Interview). Interviewed by Anderson Cooper. Retrieved 27 September 2014. 
  16. ^ Foley, Diane (12 September 2014). "Diane Foley: Jim was loved so much". CNN. Retrieved 28 September 2014. 
  17. ^ Ahiza Garcia (5 September 2014). "Ringo: Nicknaming The British ISIS Militants 'The Beatles' Is 'Bullsh*t'". Talking Points Memo. Retrieved 17 September 2014. 
  18. ^ Colby Itkowitz (5 September 2014). "Ringo Starr displeased British Islamic State torturers called 'The Beatles'". The Washington Post. Retrieved 17 September 2014. 
  19. ^ Chulov, Martin (20 August 2014). "Islamic State militants seize four more foreign hostages in Syria". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 August 2014. 
  20. ^ Julie Pace (3 September 2014). "Obama says beheading videos won't intimidate US". Yahoo! News. AP. Retrieved 3 September 2014. one [hostage] is a 26-year-old woman who was kidnapped while doing humanitarian aid work in Syria, according to a family representative who asked that the hostage not be identified out of fear for her safety. 
  21. ^ https://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/other/des/266771.htm
  22. ^ "'Jihadi John' identified as Mohammed Emwazi". BBC News. 26 February 2015. Retrieved 26 February 2015. 
  23. ^ "Jihadi John: US air strike 'targets Mohammed Emwazi in Syria'". BBC News. 13 November 2015. Retrieved 13 November 2015. 
  24. ^ a b Brian Ross (12 November 2015). "'Jihadi John' Believed Killed in US Drone Strike, US Officials Say". ABC News. Retrieved 13 November 2015. 
  25. ^ "'Jihadi John': high degree of certainty US airstrike killed Mohammed Emwazi, sources say". The Guardian. 13 November 2015. 
  26. ^ "U.S. Airstrike Targets Notorious ISIS Militant 'Jihadi John'". Fox News. 13 November 2015. 
  27. ^ "'Jihadi John' death: Islamic State says Mohammed Emwazi killed". BBC News. 19 January 2016. 
  28. ^ a b c "Forze speciali in Iraq, caccia ai "Beatles"". la Repubblica (in Italian). 25 August 2014. Retrieved 17 September 2014. 
  29. ^ "Did Jihadi John slip out of UK with fanatic rapper Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary?". Retrieved 1 April 2017. 
  30. ^ a b c "Another Islamic State jailer who held Western hostages identified as Londoner". Washington Post. 7 February 2008. 
  31. ^ a b "ISIS Accomplice Of "Jihadi John" Named As "Quiet And Humble" Londoner". BuzzFeed News. 8 February 2008. 
  32. ^ a b "'That is not the son I raised': How a British citizen became one of the most notorious members of ISIS". Washington Post. 23 May 2016. 
  33. ^ a b "My Son The ISIS Executioner". BuzzFeed News. 24 May 2016. 
  34. ^ a b "US imposes sanctions on British IS militant Alexanda Kotey". 10 January 2017. Retrieved 1 April 2017 – via www.bbc.co.uk. 
  35. ^ https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2017/03/269306.htm
  36. ^ a b Rob Crilly; Harriet Alexander (8 February 2018). "Last of 'The Beatles' British jihadists arrested in Syria". The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved 9 February 2018. 
  37. ^ a b c "Islamic State 'Beatles' pair from UK 'should face trial'". BBC News. BBC. 9 February 2018. Retrieved 9 February 2018. 
  38. ^ https://www.newstatesman.com/world/middle-east/2018/06/close-encounter-british-isis-jihadis
  39. ^ https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2017/08/273500.htm
  40. ^ https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/we-are-exposing-west-s-double-standards-boast-isis-suspects-kotey-and-mk36bqjbd
  41. ^ "Suspected British ally of Mohammed Emwazi being held in Turkey". The Guardian. 13 November 2015. 
  42. ^ "Exclusive: Briton accused of being Jihadi John's accomplice on trial over new IS terror plot". ITV News. 5 July 2016. 
  43. ^ "Jihadi John associate Aine Davis jailed in Turkey on terrorism charges". The Independent. 9 May 2017. Retrieved 9 May 2017. 
  44. ^ Watts, Matt (4 September 2014). "Ringo Starr takes on IS over Beatles nickname: 'It's bulls**t... We stood for peace and love'". Evening Standard. Retrieved 17 September 2014. 
  45. ^ "UN Security Council passes resolution restricting movement of foreign fighters intent on joining Isis". The Independent. Retrieved 28 September 2014. 
  46. ^ Rebecca Perring (25 August 2014). "Parents of murdered US journalist release final letter he sent from captivity". Express. Retrieved 18 September 2014. 
  47. ^ "Former ISIS hostage identifies Foley executioner". Al Arabiya. 21 August 2014. Retrieved 18 September 2014. 
  48. ^ Rachel Browne (24 August 2014). "Rapper identified as James Foley's executioner: reports". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 18 September 2014. 
  49. ^ a b c Rob Merrick (2018-02-11). "Britain 'may not challenge' Donald Trump if he decides to send jihadi 'Beatles' to Guantanamo, Justice Secretary says: Britain has yet to make any representations to Washington because it must first 'consider our options, David Gauke says". The Independent. Retrieved 2018-02-11. But he refused to say the Government would intervene if the US President opted to send the pair to the notorious detention centre in Cuba for suspected terrorists.