Former hostages and victims’ families want Daesh kidnappers held accountable

Diane Foley, mother of slain journalist James Foley, said Elsheikh’s and Kotey’s crimes are ‘beyond imagination’ and they should spend the rest of their lives in prison. (AP Photo)
Updated 09 February 2018
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Former hostages and victims’ families want Daesh kidnappers held accountable

LONDON: Former Islamic State hostages and families of the group’s victims are urging Britain and the United States to put two recently captured extremists on trial, arguing that denying them justice will simply give oxygen to the hatred and violence they supported.
Diane Foley, the mother of slain American journalist James Foley, said El Shafee Elsheikh’s and Alexanda Amon Kotey’s crimes are “beyond imagination” and they should spend the rest of their lives in prison.
“I’d like them to be brought to trial in the US, but as long as they’re brought to fair trial and detained and justice is served I would be most grateful,” she told the BBC.
French journalist Nicolas Henin, who was held by the men and their comrades for 10 months, said he wants justice following the arrest of the two Britons, who were part of the notorious cell dubbed “The Beatles.” Henin told the BBC that the men should be tried in the UK, not shipped to Guantanamo Bay, because revenge will just breed more violence.
“I will be extremely frustrated if they were not offered a fair trial,” Henin said. “The worst thing we can do with the terrorist is to deprive him from his rights, because then you make a terrorist become a victim, and if you victimize someone then you just fuel his narrative and you just confirm his narrative.”
The comments came after US officials confirmed that El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Amon Kotey, who grew up in London before traveling to the Middle East to join the Daesh group, were captured in early January in eastern Syria. US officials have since interrogated the men, who were part of the IS cell that captured, tortured and beheaded more than two dozen hostages, including American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and aid worker Peter Kassig.
Hundreds of foreign nationals fought alongside IS as it took control of large parts of Syria, raising concerns that they will bring terrorism with them if they ever return home. The capture of Elsheikh and Kotey could yield precious intelligence about what happened to those fighters as IS was defeated on the battlefield, and information about the fate of their hostages, said Shiraz Maher, a senior research fellow at the International Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence at King’s College London.
“It’s hugely significant for a lot of the western countries who had hostages who were captured by Islamic State,” he said. “I think it demonstrates that there remain high-value, significant players at large.”
Maher agreed that Elsheikh and Kotey should be brought to trial because it will help bring closure to their victims and send a message to anyone else who considers joining IS or other extremist groups.
“These guys had an absolute sense of their own invincibility,” he said. “They were filled with euphoria. (Trials) will make people think twice.”
The two are believed to be linked to Mohammed Emwazi, the masked British insurgent known as Jihadi John who appeared in several videos that showed the beheading of Western hostages. The cell was nicknamed “The Beatles” because all four members had English accents.
The American-backed Syrian Democratic Forces captured the two men last month, and the US helped identify them with biometric data and other tools. Their capture was first reported by the New York Times.
The US has been training the SDF in border and internal security, including how to screen individuals and determine if they are foreign fighters or other enemies hiding in the general population.
Elsheikh a former child refugee, was a mechanic from White City in west London. Kotey from the city’s Paddington neighborhood. Kotey’s family issued a statement saying they were aware of the arrest and asking that their privacy be respected.
The US State Department last year imposed sanctions on the two men after declaring they were terrorists.
Elsheikh traveled to Syria in 2012, initially joining Al-Qaeda’s branch in the country before moving on to IS, the State Department said when announcing the sanctions. Kotey served as a guard for the execution cell.
Elsheikh, it said, “was said to have earned a reputation for waterboarding, mock executions, and crucifixions while serving as an (IS) jailer.”
“As a guard for the cell, Kotey likely engaged in the group’s executions and exceptionally cruel torture methods, including electronic shock and waterboarding,” the State Department said.
Emwazi, died in a US air strike in 2015. The fourth member of the cell, Aine Lesley Davis, was convicted of being a member of a terrorist organization and jailed for seven-and-a-half years by a court in Silivri, Turkey, in May 2017.


Flood death toll in India’s Kerala jumps to 164

Updated 10 min 40 sec ago
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Flood death toll in India’s Kerala jumps to 164

  • More than 10,000 kilometers of roads and hundreds of homes have been destroyed or damaged across the state
  • A heavy rainfall “red-alert” has been issued across much of the state, which is home to around 33 million people

KOCHI: The death toll from major floods in India’s tourist hotspot Kerala has jumped to 164, state chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said Friday, issuing a fresh heavy rainfall warning for the battered region.

Kerala’s government has described the crisis — one of the worst in decades — as “extremely grave” and rescue operations are underway to help thousands who remain trapped by floodwaters.

“The chief minister has confirmed 164 deaths. Around 100 people died in the last 36 hours alone,” an official in the Kerala government’s public relations department said.

Local reports indicated an even higher toll with thousands still waiting for relief and rescue across the flood-ravaged state.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said that he had discussed the flood situation with Vijayan as more troops and rescue workers were deployed across Kerala.

“Later this evening, I will be heading to Kerala to take stock of the unfortunate situation,” Modi said on Twitter.

The state, famed for its palm-lined beaches and tea plantations, is always pummeled by the annual monsoon but this year’s damage has been the most severe in almost a century.

More than 150,000 people made homeless across the state have moved into some 1,300 relief camps.

Vijayan’s office Friday posted a fresh warning for around 33 million residents of Kerala.

“Alert: all districts apart from Kasargod are under red alert... heavy rains may affect these 13 districts. Everyone please be cautious,” his office tweeted.

Even before the latest warning, locals like Ajo Varghese have been posting desperate appeals for relief and rescue on social media.

“My family and neighboring families are in trouble with flood in Pandanad nakkada area in Alappuzha,” Varghese said in a viral Facebook post.

“No water and food. Not able to communicate from afternoon. Mobile phones are not reachable and switch off. Please help... No rescue is available,” he added.

A state official said that apart from the new rainfall warnings, a breakdown of the local communication system was making it difficult for them to reach local people who may be in urgent need in the worst-affected areas.

The government says 10,000 kilometers (6,000 miles) of Kerala roads have been destroyed or damaged and tens of thousands of homes partially or completely damaged.

The gates of at least 34 major dams and reservoirs across the state have been opened in the last few days as water levels reached danger levels.

North and central Kerala has been worst-hit by the floods with the international airport in main city of Kochi shut until at least August 26.