‘ISIS Beatle’ given eight life sentences for role in beheadings of hostages

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A MEMBER of the barbaric IS Beatles cell that kidnapped, tortured and beheaded Western captives has been today jailed for life.

Ex-British citizen El Shafee Elsheikh, 33, was convicted in April of charges that included lethal hostage-taking and conspiracy to commit murder.

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El Shafee Elsheikh has been given eight life sentences for his role in the IS gangCredit: AFP

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The IS gang member tried to claim he was ‘a simple ISIS fighter’ in defenceCredit: Reuters

He was part of the brutal hostage-taking gang that beheaded three Americans, two British aid workers and two Japanese men in Syria.

Elsheikh will die in jail after today being handed eight life sentences, to run concurrently, by US District Court judge TS Ellis in a Virginia court.

After a six-week trial in April and hours of deliberation, the jury concluded that Elsheikh was part of an Islamic State cell, nicknamed “The Beatles” for their English accents, that beheaded American hostages in Iraq and Syria.

Ellis told the court: “The behaviour of this defendant can only be described as horrific, barbaric, brutal and of course criminal.”

The court heard horrific evidence for former hostages as they told how the gang forced starving captives to fight each other.

They were also subjected to repeated beatings and at times waterboarding, mock executions and electric shocks.

Elsheikh, who was born in Sudan and raised in London, was accused of conspiring to kill four American hostages: James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller.

Foley and Sotloff, both journalists, and Kassig, an aid worker, were killed in videotaped beheadings.

Mueller was raped repeatedly by the group’s leader at the time, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, before her death in Syria, US officials have said.

The deaths of Foley, Sotloff and Kassig were confirmed in 2014 while Mueller’s death was confirmed in early 2015.

Elsheikh tried to defend himself by saying he was “a simple ISIS fighter” and not part of the gang – but this was firmly rejected by the jury.

Following the sentencing, Foley’s mother Diane said: “Let this sentencing make clear to all who dare to kidnap, torture or kill any American citizen abroad that US justice will find you wherever you are, and that our government will hold you accountable for your crimes against our citizens.”

The charges against Elsheikh, whose British citizenship was withdrawn in 2018, carried a potential death sentence, but US prosecutors had previously told British officials that they would not seek the death penalty.

Prosecutors argued that a life sentence was needed to prevent Elsheikh from causing future harm and to set a precedent that such crimes will get strict punishment.

Another cell member, Alexanda Kotey, was sentenced to life in prison by a US judge earlier this year.

Kotey was held in Iraq by the US military before being flown to the United States to face trial. He pleaded guilty last September to the murders of Foley, Sotloff, Kassig and Mueller.

A third member of the group, Mohammed Emwazi, died in a US-British missile strike in Syria in 2015.

Some former hostages, released by the cell after protracted negotiations, testified during trials about the torture they endured. Family members of those killed also testified.

At the peak of its power from 2014-2017, the so-called Islamic State ruled over millions of people and claimed responsibility for or inspired attacks in dozens of cities around the world.

Its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared a caliphate over a quarter of Iraq and Syria in 2014, before he was killed in a raid by US special forces in Syria in 2019 as the group’s rule collapsed.

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American hostage Sotloff was forced to kneel in front of gang member Emwazi before his mock executionCredit: Reuters

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Diane Foley, the mum of US hostage James Foley, speaking after the hearingCredit: AFP

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