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DOJ Charges Two ISIS Terrorists in the Murders of Americans James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller

Kayla Mueller, James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Peter Kassig

Kayla Mueller (left), James Foley (center), Steven Sotloff (above), Peter Kassig (below)

The Department of Justice on Wednesday charged ex-British citizens-turned-ISIS terrorists Alexanda Amon Kotey, 36, and El Shafee Elsheikh, 32, for conspiring to murder American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and American aid workers Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller in Syria.

Kotey and Elsheikh, two of four members of the ISIS subset that hostages referred to as “The Beatles,” have been indicted and are expected to appear in court as soon as Wednesday afternoon, the DOJ announced.

The defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit hostage taking resulting in death, hostage taking resulting in death, conspiracy to murder U.S. citizens outside of the U.S., conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists resulting in death, and conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization resulting in death.

Kotey and Elsheikh allegedly conspired with since-deceased Mohamed “Jihadi John” Emwazi and a “fourth British citizen (CC-1) currently incarcerated in Turkey,” namely Aine Lesley Davis.

The defendants, according to the DOJ, “participated in the abduction of American and European hostages in Syria” and  “allegedly engaged in a prolonged pattern of physical and psychological violence against the hostages.” ISIS released videos in 2014 showing that Foley, Sotloff, and Kassig were beheaded. ISIS said that Kayla Mueller died in 2015.  Over those two years, ISIS also released videos of beheadings of British citizens David Haines and Alan Henning, and videos showing two dead Japanese citizens, per the DOJ.

Dead ISIS terrorist leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi repeatedly raped Mueller. In Oct. 2019, President Donald Trump ordered U.S. Special Forces to execute a raid on an ISIS compound in Syria.

“[Baghdadi] died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way. The compound had been cleared by this time, with people either surrendering or being shot and killed.  Eleven young children were moved out of the house and are uninjured,” the president said. “The only ones remaining were Baghdadi in the tunnel, and he had dragged three of his young children with him. They were led to certain death.”

“He reached the end of the tunnel, as our dogs chased him down. He ignited his vest, killing himself and the three children. His body was mutilated by the blast.  The tunnel had caved in on it, in addition. But test results gave certain immediate and totally positive identification,” Trump continued. “It was him.”

Mueller’s parents Carl and Marsha Mueller were on hand for President Trump’s State of the Union address in February.

Carl Mueller (C) holds a photo of his daughter, Kayla, as his wife Marsha (L) looks on during the State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives on February 04, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump delivers his third State of the Union to the nation the night before the U.S. Senate is set to vote in his impeachment trial. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Attorney General Bill Barr said in a statement that the prosecutions of Kotey and Elsheikh sends a message that the U.S. will not rest until terrorists are brought to justice.

“These charges are the product of many years of hard work in pursuit of justice for our citizens slain by ISIS. Although we cannot bring them back, we can and will seek justice for them, their families, and for all Americans,” Barr said. “Our message to other terrorists around the world is this — if you harm Americans, you will face American arms on the battlefield or American law in our courtrooms. Either way, you will be pursued to the ends of the earth until justice is done.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray echoed those thoughts and remembered the victims and their families, “who are forever affected by these senseless acts of violence.”

“These families have suffered with the painful loss of their loved ones at the hands of brutal killers; today’s charges demonstrate the FBI’s dedication and commitment to giving them the justice they deserve,” Wray said. “We, along with our partners in the U.S. Government, remain steadfast in our duty to bring to justice those who have harmed our citizens — no matter where they are, and no matter how long it takes.”

The indictment alleges that the defendants also “forcibly moved […] Italian, Danish, and German citizens, along with two other European humanitarian aid workers, to an isolated area approximately two miles from their prison to witness the execution of a Syrian prisoner.”

Again, the DOJ press release:

Kotey and Elsheikh knew and understood this execution was part of the hostage negotiation process. Emwazi executed the Syrian prisoner by shooting him in the back of the head and then numerous times in the torso as he fell into a grave. Kotey instructed the hostages to kneel at the side of the grave and witness the execution while holding handmade signs pleading for their release. Elsheikh videotaped the execution of the Syrian hostage, and after the execution the three men returned the European hostages to the prison with Elsheikh telling one hostage, “You’re next, [First name].”

The indictment alleges that ISIS fighters also forcibly seized the following additional individuals: Two United Kingdom citizens, an Italian citizen, a Danish citizen, a German citizen, four French citizens, three Spanish citizens, a New Zealand citizen, and a Russian citizen.

The defendants were captured in Jan. 2018 and now face up to life in prison. The death penalty was taken off the table, according to the Washington Post.

“A court in London last month cleared the way for British authorities to provide evidence they hold to U.S. law enforcement after Attorney General William P. Barr agreed not to seek the death penalty in exchange,” the report said.

[Images via YouTube screegrabs, Image of James Foley via Law&Crime Network]

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.