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ISIS "Beatle" pleads guilty in connection to the hostage taking and death of U.S. citizens

A former member of an ISIS cell known as "the Beatles" pleaded guilty in a federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, on Thursday for his role in the torture and brutal killings of western hostages, including American citizens.

In a statement, Alexanda Amon Kotey, a former British national, told the court that he left the United Kingdom because he believed "Islamic jihad was a valid and legitimate cause." He said while he was with ISIS he came in contact with four Americans and three British citizens, who were later killed by the group, among other European citizens.

Kotey subsequently pleaded guilty to four counts of hostage-taking resulting in death, one count of conspiracy to commit hostage taking resulting in death, two counts of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists resulting in death and one count of conspiracy to murder United States citizens outside of the U.S.

Kotey and his co-defendant El Shafee Elsheikh, who did not plead guilty, allegedly served as guards and interpreters for the ISIS cell. They allegedly participated in the mental and physical abuse of four Americans: James Wright Foley, Kayla Jean Mueller, Steven Joel Sotloff and Peter Edward Kassig. According to court documents, Kotey and Elsheikh were also responsible for coordinating the hostage ransom negotiations for Western prisoners conducted over email from November 2013 to February 2015.

The ISIS cell – dubbed "the Beatles" by hostages they held captive because of their British accents – became infamous for releasing videos that showed Mohamed Emwazi, another British national who was allegedly member of the cell, beheading prisoners, including American journalists Foley and Sotloff, and British citizens David Haines and Alan Henning in 2014. Later, in November 2014, ISIS released a video depicting the decapitated head of Kassig, and in January 2015, ISIS released videos with images of two dead Japanese citizens, the court documents say.

In addition to four American and two British citizens, Kotey and Elsheikh are accused of capturing an Italian citizen, a Danish citizen, a German citizen, four French citizens, three Spanish citizens, a New Zealand citizen and a Russian citizen.

Kotey and Elsheikh allegedly made up half of the notorious cell and were captured by the Syrian Democratic Forces during the collapse of ISIS in the region in 2018. They were sent to Turkey before arriving in the U.S. to face charges. The men have been stripped of their U.K. citizenship. Emwazi, also known as "Jihadi John," was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Syria in November 2015.

Kotey has agreed to cooperate with the U.S. and U.K. governments under the conditions of the plea agreement but is not obligated to testify against Elsheikh if he decides to go to trial. The U.S. government has agreed not to seek the death penalty in this case, so the maximum sentence Kotey faces is life in prison.

He will be sentenced on March 4, 2022, at 1 p.m. The victims' family members will be able to address the court, the judge said.

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