WASHINGTON — Two British Islamic State fighters who were part of a notorious kidnapping cell dubbed “The Beatles” for their British accents have been captured in Syria, a US defense official confirmed Thursday.
The two members of the group still in the field, Alexanda Amon Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, both from Britain, were captured in January in eastern Syria by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.
“The two are believed to have acted as guards and interpreters involved in ISIS’ illegal captivity of Western hostages, and are thought to have links to the British terrorist often called ‘Jihadi John,” the official said in a statement.
The US official did not give any information on the condition of the two or what would happen to them.
Of the other two members of the “Beatles” group, Mohammed Emwazi — nicknamed “Jihadi John” — was killed in 2015 in a drone strike by the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group.
The fourth member, Aine Davis, is being held in Turkey.
“Jihadi John” was the leader of the group, known for using a knife to kill hostages in a string of videotaped beheadings, including of US journalists James Foley, and Steven Sotloff, as well as aid worker Peter Kassig.
The State Department has imposed sanctions on Elsheikh and Kotey.
According to the US, Elsheikh traveled to Syria in 2012 and first joined al-Qaeda’s branch there, and then later joined IS.
The State Department, in imposing sanctions on Kotey last year, said he likely engaged in executions and torture, including electronic shock and waterboarding, and recruited several British nationals to IS.
According to military officials, the two men represent just a small portion of the hundreds of foreign-born IS terrorists from a number of nations that SDF fighters have captured or killed since October 2017.
US officials did not provide any other details of the capture, but said the US government with its coalition partners on the disposition of detainees held by the SDF. They said those discussions are private and no additional information would be given.
Sotloff, an American immigrant to Israel, was kidnapped in August 2013 after crossing into Syria from Turkey. He was killed on September 2, 2014, and a video was distributed around the world documenting his death.
Foley had been killed a month earlier by the Islamic State. Kassig was captured by Islamic State militants in 2013 while delivering relief supplies to refugees in Syria.