Arab News profiles the four Daesh extremists who became known as the ‘Beatles Cell’. They all grew up far away from the battlefields and hardship of Syria and Iraq and hailed from West London.
- El Shafee Elsheikh, 29: Was born in Sudan, the middle of three sons, but arrived in Britain in the early 1990s when his family fled their homeland. He grew up in White City, where he worked as a mechanic mending funfair machinery and supported Queen’s Park Rangers football team. He was influenced by the sermons of a West London imam and left for Syria at the beginning of 2012. His father described his son’s radicalization as “lightning-fast”. In Syria, Elsheikh gained a reputation for using waterboarding, mock executions and crucifixion as to torture captives. His younger brother, Mahmoud, followed him to the war zone and was killed fighting for Daesh in Iraq last year. He was 17.
- Alexanda Kotey, 34: Half Ghanaian and half-Cypriot and grew up as a Greek Orthodox Christian in the Paddington area of London. A father-of-two and a convert to Islam in his late teens or early 20s, the US identified him as a cell member in Jan. 2017. According to the State Department it is likely that he took part in executions and used “exceptionally cruel torture methods, including electric shock and waterboarding.” He also acted as a recruiter for Daesh, persuading several other Britons to join the ”cause.”
- Mohamed Emwazi: Was the cell’s most notorious member. Nicknamed Jihadi John, he was the black-masked figure who posed in videos, speaking with an unmistakably British accent and brandishing a large knife with which he beheaded his captives. He was born in Kuwait and moved to Britain as a child, where he attended state schools and went on to study computer science at the University of Westminster. He left for Syria in 2013. He murdered American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and was himself killed in an airstrike in 2015. He never showed his face publicly but is thought to have been in his mid-20s.
- Aine Davis: Grew up in Hammersmith, West London, the son of a school dinner lady and a shop assistant who worked in John Lewis, favorite department store of the middle classes. A known drug dealer, he served time in jail in 2006 for possession of a firearm. It is believed he converted to Islam in prison and befriended Emwazi because they prayed at the same West London mosque. He took the name Hamza and it is believed he went to Syria in 2012, leaving behind four children born to two different women.
He was tried and convicted of terrorism by a Turkish court last May and is now serving seven-and-half years. He denies he is a member of Daesh, saying he went to Syria to fight oppression.