Two high-profile ISIS fighters have been indicted on terrorism charges related to the hostage-taking and deaths of four Americans, the US government announced Wednesday.
Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, who were part of an ISIS execution cell dubbed “the Beatles” because of their British accents, are expected to make their initial appearances in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, Wednesday afternoon. They are in FBI custody.
Kotey and Elsheikh are charged for their involvement in the hostage-taking and murders of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and American aid workers Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller as well as British and Japanese nationals.
According to the indictment, they are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit hostage-taking resulting in death, four counts of hostage-taking resulting in death, one count of conspiracy to murder US citizens outside of the US, one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists — hostage-taking and murder — resulting in death, one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization resulting in death.
If convicted, Kotey and Elsheikh face a maximum penalty of life in prison for each count.
“My message to other terrorists is this — if you harm an American, you will face the same fate as these men. You will face American arms on the battlefield, and if you survive, you will face American justice in an American courtroom with the prospect of many years in an American prison. Either way, you will never live in peace — you will be pursued to the ends of the earth. No matter how long it may take, we will never forget, and we will never quit,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said at a press conference Wednesday.
‘We will remember them for the way they lived their good and decent lives’
In his remarks, Demers called it a “good” but “solemn day.”
“Today we remember the four innocent Americans whose lives were taken by ISIS: James Wright Foley, Steven Joel Sotloff, Peter Edward Kassig, and Kayla Jean Mueller.”
“Many around the world are familiar with the barbaric circumstances of their deaths. But we will not remember these Americans for the way they died. We will remember them for the way they lived their good and decent lives.”
In a joint statement Wednesday released by the Foley Foundation, the families welcomed the news.
“James, Peter, Kayla and Steven were kidnapped, tortured, beaten, starved, and murdered by members of the Islamic State in Syria. Now our families can pursue accountability for these crimes against our children in a U.S. court,” they said.
“We are hopeful that the U.S. government will finally be able to send the important message that if you harm Americans, you will never escape justice. And when you are caught, you will face the full power of American law,” the Foleys, Sotloffs, Kassigs and Muellers said.
‘A brutal hostage-taking scheme’
The 24-page indictment alleges that Kotey and Elsheikh “were leading