An Islamic State terrorist has been sentenced to life in a US prison for killing American hostages

ALEXANDRIA, Va., Aug 19 (Reuters) – A U.S. federal judge on Friday sentenced a member of the Islamic State group known as “The Beatles” to life in prison for their role in a hostage plot that led to the killing of Americans. Journalists and aid workers in Syria.

District Court Judge DS Ellis sentenced El Shafee Elsheikh, 34, to life in prison without parole, saying the families and friends of four Americans saw “brutal, barbaric, brutal and, of course, killed by a militant group. Guilty.”

A jury in April ruled that a former British citizen was part of the Islamic State group, nicknamed “The Beatles” for their English accents, which beheaded American hostages in areas of the Middle East controlled by the militant group. After a two-week trial he was found guilty of four hostage-taking and four conspiracy counts.

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Relatives and friends of the victims sat in the front row of the courtroom and were shocked as tears welled up and comforted each other during the hearing. Elshek was sentenced to eight concurrent life sentences.

At the height of its power from 2014-2017, the Islamic State ruled millions of people and was responsible for or instigated attacks in dozens of cities around the world.

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

Elshek, who was born in Sudan and grew up in London, is accused of conspiring to kill four American hostages: James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Peter Kasik and Kayla Mueller.

Two journalists, Foley and Sotloff, and Kasik, an aid worker, were killed in a videotaped beheading. U.S. officials say Mueller was raped by al-Baghdadi several times before her death in Syria.

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

Elsheik appeared in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia on Friday wearing a gray jumpsuit, mask and glasses. The victim’s family and friends were asked to testify before the judge.

“The hate completely overcame your humanity,” Foley’s mother, Diane, later tearfully said. “I feel sorry for you. I pray that your time in prison will give you time to reflect.” Friday marked the eighth anniversary of Foley’s beheading.

Richard Smith, head of the London Police’s counter-terrorism unit, said in a statement that the victims’ families had shown remarkable courage and bravery in giving their accounts of what happened to investigators and in court.

The charges against Elsheikh, whose British citizenship was revoked in 2018, could carry the death penalty, but US prosecutors had previously advised British authorities they would not seek the death penalty.

Prosecutors argued that the life sentence was necessary to deter Elsheik from future harm and to set a precedent that such crimes receive harsher punishments.

“The Beatles were true psychopaths,” First Assistant U.S. Attorney Raj Parekh argued in court Friday, saying during the trial that Elshek was the highest-ranking member of the Islamic State group ever convicted in a U.S. court.

Another cell member, Alexandra Gotti, was sentenced to life in prison by a US judge earlier this year. Cote was detained by the US military in Iraq before being flown to the US to face trial. He pleaded guilty last September to the murders of Foley, Sotloff, Kasik and Mueller. read more

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

Some former hostages, freed from prison after lengthy negotiations, testified during the trials about the torture they suffered. Family members of the victims also testified.

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Reported by Kanishka Singh; Written by Rami Ayyub Editing by Scott Malone and Alistair Bell

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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