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.


Eels break records in Maine, where they sell for big money

The elvers are always extremely valuable, but they are fetching an especially high price this year. (AP)
Updated 26 min 5 sec ago
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Eels break records in Maine, where they sell for big money

  • Fishermen have sold more than $20 million worth of the eels so far this season
  • The eels are raised to maturity and used in Japanese cuisine. Some are exported back to the US for use in restaurants in dishes such as unagi

PORTLAND, Maine: America’s only significant state fishery for baby eels has blown past records for value as high demand from overseas aquaculture companies is driving prices to new heights.
Fishermen in Maine search for the eels, called elvers, in rivers and streams every spring so they can be sold to Asian aquaculture companies as seed stock. Fishermen have sold more than $20 million worth of the eels so far this season, according to the Maine Department of Marine Resources.
That is the highest total since interstate managers instituted a quota system for the eels in 2014. The previous record was $13.4 million, and fishermen still have until June 7 to catch more of the eels this year.
“Eels are going to get caught up in this next round of tides, I think,” said Darrell Young, co-director of the Maine Elver Fishermen’s Association. “You never know what the price is going to be, but this year it’s high.”
The eels are raised to maturity and used in Japanese cuisine. Some are exported back to the US for use in restaurants in dishes such as unagi. The elvers are always extremely valuable, but they are fetching an especially high price this year because eel fisheries had unproductive years in other parts of the world, members of the industry said.
Maine’s fishermen were selling elvers at the dock for more than $2,400 a pound as of May 16, and that would be a record if it holds until the end of the season, state records say. They’re also not experiencing the slow harvest that has plagued fishermen in other parts of the world, and are on track to tap out their entire 9,688-pound quota this year.
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission manages the elver fishery and instituted the quota for the first time in 2014 out of concern that a gold-rush mentality would jeopardize the eel population, which conservationists believe is in peril. Fishermen caught nearly 40,000 pounds of the eels between 2012 and 2013, which were years in which Maine elvers grew in value because foreign stocks dried up.
The quota was initially 11,749 pounds, and it was reduced to 9,688 pounds in 2015. Fishermen have never caught the entirety of the quota, though they’ve come close in the past two years. A proposal to increase the quota back to the higher number is up for public hearings in Maine next month.
The growth of the fishery has attracted the attention of some environmentalists. Geoff Smith, marine science program director for The Nature Conservancy, said Maine regulators were wise to implement new controls, such as a swipe-card system to deter poaching.
“As the global demand for elvers continues to rise, it’s increasingly important to have an effective monitoring and reporting system,” Smith said.
Federal investigators have also cracked down on elver poaching in recent years. A judge ruled in early May that two Maine men will spend six months in federal prison for illegally trafficking in poached baby eels.
Investigators are “actively working to dismantle an international wildlife trafficking scheme that not only harms American eels, but US business owners and others who rely on healthy ecosystems for both ecological and economical purposes,” said Assistant Director Edward Grace for the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement.