Islamic State 'Beatle' expected to plead guilty

Washington (AFP) –


Alexanda Kotey, a member of the notorious Islamic State kidnapping cell dubbed the "Beatles," is expected to enter a guilty plea to charges of conspiring to murder four American hostages.

The federal court in Alexandria, Virginia posted a notice late Tuesday for a "change of plea" hearing for Kotey, a former British national and one of two kidnap cell members brought to the United States for trial.

The hearing will take place on Thursday afternoon in the Alexandria court.

Kotey, 37, and El Shafee Elsheikh, 33, were flown to the US from Iraq in October to face trial for involvement in the murders of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and relief workers Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller.

After they were captured in January 2018 by Syrian Kurdish forces in Syria, they were turned over to US forces in Iraq.

Britain, which did not want to put them on trial at home, stripped them of their UK nationality.

But their transfer to the United States was made possible only after the US authorities assured London they would not seek the death penalty in the case.

Appearing from prison before Judge TS Ellis by video link on October 9, both pleaded not guilty.

Deciding to change his plea to guilty could indicate that Kotey has reached a deal with prosecutors based on his cooperation.

Kotey and Elsheikh's four-member IS cell was dubbed the "Beatles" by their captives due to their British accents.

They were allegedly involved in abducting American, European and Japanese hostages in Syria from 2012 to 2015.

They allegedly tortured and killed their victims, including by beheading, and the IS released videos of the murders for propaganda purposes.

Alleged ringleader Mohamed Emwazi, known as "Jihadi John," was killed in a US airstrike in Syria in November 2015 while the fourth "Beatle," Aine Davis, is imprisoned in Turkey after being convicted on terrorism charges.

Kotey and Elsheikh supervised detention facilities for hostages and allegedly coordinated ransom negotiations conducted by email, according to the US authorities.

The pair also engaged in a "prolonged pattern of physical and psychological violence against hostages," they said.