Thursday 19 September 2019

Last members of British jihadist gang 'the Beatles' held in Syria

Mohammed Emwazi, known as ‘Jihadi John’, stands next to American hostage Steven Sotloff before he was killed. Emwazi was the leader of the gang known as ‘the Beatles’. Photo: Reuters
Mohammed Emwazi, known as ‘Jihadi John’, stands next to American hostage Steven Sotloff before he was killed. Emwazi was the leader of the gang known as ‘the Beatles’. Photo: Reuters

Rob Crilly

The last two surviving members of Isil's notorious British terror cell known as "the Beatles" have been captured by Syrian Kurdish fighters, according to US officials.

Alexanda Kotey (34) and El Shafee Elsheikh (29) were picked up as local forces fought running battles with Isil militants close to the border with Iraq, officials confirmed last night.

Mohammed Emwazi, the gang's leader - better known as "Jihadi John" - died in a 2015 air strike. He appeared in a string of propaganda videos and was filmed beheading British and American hostages. Aine Davis, a fourth member, is serving a seven-year jail term in Turkey. The four young men from west London, who were given their nickname by the hostages because of their British accents, were linked to a string of murders in Iraq and Syria. 'The Telegraph' last year reported that the two missing men were on a US "kill list" reserved for senior Isil terrorists.

Unnamed American officials, quoted in the 'New York Times' last night, said the pair were picked up by the Syrian Democratic Forces as they fought the last remaining pockets of Isil fighters near the Euphrates.

The report added that the men were identified by fingerprints and other biometric means.

Elsheikh arrived in Britain as a child when his communist-supporting parents fled Sudan. He was five when his family claimed asylum.

His identity was revealed two years ago when British intelligence officials said they believed the former fairground mechanic from White City in west London was part of the cell.

In January last year, American authorities confirmed that Kotey was a member of the cell and imposed sanctions on him.

He grew up as a Queens Park Rangers fan and lived just two miles away from Emwazi.

The half Ghanaian, half Greek Cypriot came from a family of dress cutters in Shepherd's Bush and is believed to have converted to Islam, grown a beard, and begun dressing in traditional robes in his early twenties, after falling in love with a Muslim woman.

Born in 1983, Kotey was also connected to the "London Boys" - a network of extremists who fomented radical Islam while playing five-a-side football in west London and who were linked to the 7/7 London bombings and the subsequent failed 21/7 plot.

He left two young children in Britain to travel to Syria.

Emwazi appeared with his face covered and voice disguised in a string of videos in which captives, including British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning, were beheaded.

The fourth member, Davis, was convicted of being a member of a terrorist organisation and jailed for seven-and-a-half years at a court in Silivri, Turkey, in May 2017.

At the time of his arrest, Turkish officials said he was detained with a number of people planning a terror attack.

The US authorities refused to confirm the reports of their arrest last night.

The British government and Ministry of Defence did not respond to requests for confirmation.

American officials were reportedly told last month that the militia believed they may have captured the wanted men.

Irish Independent

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