Dubbed by their hostages as “The Beatles”, the members of an Islamic State terror cell were notorious for their wanton brutality and British accents.
Two of the terrorists have been sentenced to life behind bars, one is in UK custody, and one has been killed.
Courts heard they were at pains to keep their identities secret amid concerns they would be identified if their captives were ever released. However, many of the hostages were murdered.
Here is a little of what is known about each of the four.
– Mohammed Emwazi
The undisputed ringleader of the murderous group, dubbed “Jihadi John”, he carried out the executions of western hostages and appeared in the chilling propaganda videos of the so-called Islamic State (IS) which sent shockwaves around the world.
Kuwait-born Emwazi attended Quintin Kynaston Community Academy in St John’s Wood, north London, and was described by his former head teacher as a “hard-working, aspirational young man”.
He went on to gain a degree in information systems with business management from the University of Westminster.
Emwazi was a known subject of interest to the UK security services but managed to evade them to get into Syria by 2013.
It was reported that MI5 had even tried to recruit him as an informer before he left to fight for IS.
Emwazi was killed by a US drone strike in 2015.
– Aine Davis
The career criminal of Gambian heritage left the UK in 2013 to fight in Syria.
Davis, 38, was arrested in Turkey in 2015 and jailed for seven-and-a-half years in 2017 after being convicted of being a member of a terrorist organisation.
In August 2022 he was deported back to England and arrested at Luton Airport before appearing at Westminster Magistrates Court, in London.
He did not enter any pleas to the charges, which include possession of a firearm for terror purposes, and two charges relating to funding terrorism, and will next appear at the Old Bailey on September 2.
In 2014 Davis’ wife, Amal El-Wahabi, became the first person convicted of funding terrorism in Syria when she was jailed at the Old Bailey following a trial.
The couple had met at a London mosque and had become increasingly interested in Islam.
Judge Nicholas Hilliard QC said it was clear that Davis – who had possessions of drugs offences and gun possession – had gone to Syria to fight under the black flag of IS and that he was preoccupied with martyrdom.
Davis’s WhatsApp profile picture showing him brandishing an automatic weapon was a “particularly shocking image”, the judge said.
– Alexanda Kotey
Kotey has been in custody since he and Elsheikh were captured in Syria in 2018 and was handed eight life sentences at his own sentencing in April, after pleading guilty to his part in the terror cell’s activities.
He was originally from Paddington in west London and was raised in a Greek Orthodox Christian family before converting to Islam in his teens.
The 38-year-old Queens Park Rangers supporter is said to have attended the Al-Manaar mosque in Notting Hill along with Emwazi and Davis.
He is believed to have left London to join IS around the same time as – or with – Emwazi.
Kotey pleaded guilty last year to eight charges relating to the conspiracy to abduct and behead western hostages, and said he came into contact with Britons Alan Henning and David Haines, both of whom were executed.
However, he denied being present when the executions were carried out.
Kotey could serve out his sentence in the United Kingdom after 15 years in the US.
He has been stripped of his British citizenship.
– El Shafee Elsheikh
The former mechanic from White city in west London is said to have arrived in the UK as a child refugee from Sudan.
Elsheikh was said by his family to have been “brainwashed” into becoming an extremist after going to sermons at local mosques for little more than two weeks.
He – and fellow Beatle Alexanda Kotey – had been arrested for taking part in a demonstration outside the US embassy in London in 2011 in support of the 9/11 attacks.
Elsheikh left the UK for Syria in 2012.
A former fairground worker, he was arrested by Kurdish-led Syrian Defence Forces in 2018, and eventually confessed his role in the scheme to interrogators as well as media interviewers, acknowledging that he helped collect email addresses and provided proof of life to the hostages’ families as part of ransom negotiations.
Prosecutors said he was the Beatle identified as “Ringo”, but his defence team said his role in the hostage plot was unproven.
The 34-year-old was convicted of eight counts relating to four American hostages earlier this month in the US and was handed the same sentence as Kotey by the same judge in the same Virginia federal courtroom in August.
He has also been stripped of his British citizenship.
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