Diane Foley, whose son James was kidnapped and eventually executed, welcomed the capture of Alexander Kotey and El-Shafee ElSheikh, two of the so-called “Beatles” cell, captured by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in Syria, and said she wanted them to be put on trial and jailed for life.
“Their crimes are beyond imagination. They really have not done anything good in the world so I think they need to spend the rest of their life being held,” she said.
French journalist Nicolas Henin was held with other hostages, including fellow journalist James Foley, in an underground cell. One of his captors was Mohammed Emwazi, the Kuwaiti-born Briton nicknamed Jihadi John, who was notorious for his brutality.
Henin spent ten months in captivity — six of them in a cell underground in Syria and chained for long periods to three other French hostages.
He said there were also French extremists among their captors and firmly believes that all captured Daesh insurgents should be tried in their home country, including the two “Beatles.” Handing them over to the Americans to be sent to Guantanamo Bay would only breed more violence and turn them into martyrs, he added.
“The worst thing we can do with the terrorist is to deprive him of 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. So everybody has a right for a fair trial and for justice,” Henin said.
He and three compatriots were released in April 2014 after lengthy negotiations with the French government, although Francois Hollande, who was president of France at the time, insisted no ransom had been paid.
Senior SDF official Redur Xelil told Reuters on Friday that Kotey had been aiming to reach Turkey when he was captured by in a rural area of Raqqa province on Jan. 24.
“He was intending to escape toward Turkey with cooperation and coordination with friends of his on the Turkish side,” Xelil said. “He is now under investigation with us,” he said.
A senior security official in Turkey, however, said it was “nonsense” that Daesh militant would try to reach Turkey.
The group of four British Daesh militants were nicknamed the Beatles because of their British accents.
They are known to have captured at least 23 foreign hostages, nearly all of whom were ransomed or killed. The gang were known to torture their prisoners with tasers, water boarding and mock executions.
Some of their victims, including British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning, were executed on camera.
Emwazi was killed in an airstrike in 2015 in Syria. Another member of the British cell, Aine Davis, is serving seven-and-a-half years in a Turkish prison after being convicted of terrorism charges.
The British defense secretary Gavin Williamson welcomed news that the two members of the British cell who remained at large had been captured.
“These are people who have done absolutely vile & despicable crimes and brought absolutely so much misery. It is good that they have been hunted down and caught,” he said.
Defense minister Tobias Ellwood, whose brother Jonathan was killed in a terrorist attack in Bali in 2002, said that while the rules of engagement on the battlefields of Iraq and Syria authorized the killing of terrorists, the two Britons should “answer and be judged to a legitimate authority” and called for a special court to be set up for the trials of Daesh militants.
“The horror of 9/11 meant we briefly lost sight of the standards and rule of law that took centuries to develop and fundamentally distinguish us from the terrorist. Guantanamo Bay created a new combatant status that bypassed the Geneva Convention, used torture and failed to address a wider global jihadist insurgency that continues today,” he said.
“Given the scale of foreign fighters attracted to Daesh, we should consider an agreed international process involving [the International Criminal Court at] the Hague which ensures terrorists from any origin are transparently and fairly held to account for their actions.”