Daesh ‘Beatles’ made captives watch and listen to torture of other hostages, trial hears

Alexanda Kotey and Shafee Elsheikh, in these undated handout pictures in Amouda, Syria released on February 9, 2018. (Reuters/File Photo)
Alexanda Kotey and Shafee Elsheikh, in these undated handout pictures in Amouda, Syria released on February 9, 2018. (Reuters/File Photo)
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Updated 09 April 2022

Daesh ‘Beatles’ made captives watch and listen to torture of other hostages, trial hears

Alexanda Kotey and Shafee Elsheikh, in these undated handout pictures in Amouda, Syria released on February 9, 2018. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • French photographer Edouard Elias tells court he was deprived of food, sleep, and dragged through the blood of fellow captives
  • Former UK citizen El Shafee Elsheikh on trial in US, accused of role in the kidnapping and deaths of several Western hostages in Syria

LONDON: A French war photographer has told the trial of one of the four Daesh “Beatles” how he and other prisoners of the group tried to commit suicide to escape their tormentors.

Edouard Elias, who was captured by Daesh in Syria in June 2013, reportedly told the court in Alexandria, Virginia: “We found plastic bags and ropes. We tried to find a way of suicide.”

Elias, 30, was speaking at the trial of former British national El Shafee Elsheikh, who is accused of playing a key role in the kidnapping and deaths of four Americans, aid workers Kayla Mueller and Peter Kassig, and journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.

The photojournalist was captured within an hour of entering Syria from Turkey with colleague Didier Francois, and after being taken to Aleppo and accused of working for the CIA, was held for 10 months by Elsheikh and the other Daesh “Beatles,” a nickname earned because they all had British accents.

Elias described them as “professionals,” detailing how they would wear black masks, military fatigues and boots rather than the casual dress of their fellow Daesh members, carried Glock pistols at all times, and how seriously they took torturing their captives.

He said they would goad each other into snapping the fingers of their victims, and would make them sing a version of the song “Hotel California,” emphasizing a lyric at the end which states “you can never leave.”

Elias told the court: “They repeated it again and again, laughing. I cannot listen to that song anymore.”

The photographer said he had been chained to a radiator and deprived of food and water for three days after he was first captured, causing him to hallucinate.

He was deprived of sleep by being regularly beaten and forced to listen to the screams of other captured Westerners. He was also forced to watch other detainees being tortured after he was moved to another facility called “The Eye Hospital.”

He said: “I was very scared because I thought I would be next. You could see their blood everywhere. When they took me out of the room for interrogation, they dragged me through the blood of the other victims.”

Elias also described Danish photographer Dan Rye, who he met in captivity and was held by the group for over a year, as “not like a human being, just a corpse, like a body barely breathing.”

After he was transferred to the custody of the “Beatles,” he said they would regularly enter cells to beat detainees by making them kneel facing walls before assaulting them. He said prisoners were forced to pose in orange jumpsuits for videos pleading to be ransomed, and described how he was transferred from Aleppo to Raqqa as part of a Daesh convoy that he compared to a scene from the film “Mad Max.”

He said he was held in Raqqa at a jail called “The Oil Facility” from February 2014 until his release, where 18 prisoners were packed into a cell with only a bucket for a toilet.

One day the “Beatles” removed a man from the cell and returned days later to show the remaining prisoners images of the man’s head with a bullet wound. Elias added that, when prisoners were released, their former jailers would beat other cellmates as they departed, warning them not to talk to the media, and threatening to kill the remaining hostages if their ransom demands were not met.


Mahsa Amini did not die from blows to body: Iranian coroner

Mahsa Amini did not die from blows to body: Iranian coroner
Updated 11 sec ago

Mahsa Amini did not die from blows to body: Iranian coroner

Mahsa Amini did not die from blows to body: Iranian coroner
  • Mahsa Amini died while in the custody of Iran’s morality police
  • Her death ignited more than two weeks of nationwide protests
DUBAI: An Iranian coroner’s report into the death of Mahsa Amini said she did not die due to blows to the head and limbs but from multiple organ failure caused by cerebral hypoxia, the official news agency IRNA reported on Friday.
The death of 22-year-old Amini while in the custody of Iran’s morality police has ignited more than two weeks of nationwide protests. Her father has said she suffered bruises to her legs, and has held the police responsible for her death.
The coroner’s report said her death was “not caused by blow to the head and limbs.” It did not say whether she had suffered any injuries. The report did say she fell while in custody due to “underlying diseases.”
“Due to the ineffective cardio-respiratory resuscitation in the first critical minutes, she suffered severe hypoxia and as a result brain damage.”

Iran denies security forces killed 16-year-old, says she fell off roof-Iranian media

Iran denies security forces killed 16-year-old, says she fell off roof-Iranian media
Updated 07 October 2022

Iran denies security forces killed 16-year-old, says she fell off roof-Iranian media

Iran denies security forces killed 16-year-old, says she fell off roof-Iranian media
  • Rights groups say more than 150 people have been killed
  • Women have played a prominent role, waving and burning headscarves

DUBAI: Iranian authorities have denied reports security forces killed a 16-year-old girl during protests ignited by the death of a woman in police custody, Iranian media reported on Friday, saying she committed suicide by falling off a roof.
Social media reports and rights group Amnesty International have said Sarina Esmaeilzadeh was killed by security forces when she was struck with batons on the head during protests over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in morality police custody.
Authorities earlier this week gave a similar cause of death — falling off a roof — for 17-year-old Nika Shakarami, who activists say was killed in Tehran while demonstrating over Amini’s death.
Rights groups say more than 150 people have been killed, hundreds have been injured and thousands arrested in a crackdown on nationwide protests marking the biggest challenge to Iran’s clerical leadership in years.
Women have played a prominent role, waving and burning headscarves. High school girls have also taken part.
The chief justice of Alborz province where Esmaeilzadeh died said a preliminary investigation showed her death was caused by suicide from a fall from the roof of a five-story building, the semi-official ISNA news agency said.
Chief justice Hossein Fazeli Herikandi said claims in opposition media about her death were “lies.” “Based on her mother’s account, Esmaeilzadeh had a history of suicide attempts,” he said. Police received a report of her death on Sept. 24, he said.
Reuters could not reach her family for comment.
Amnesty International, in a Sept. 30 report, said she was one of at least 52 people killed by security forces between Sept. 19 and Sept. 25, saying Esmaeilzadeh “died after being severely beaten in the head with batons.”
A video showing Esmaeilzadeh smiling and listening to music has been viewed around 147,000 times on the widely-followed 1500tasvir Twitter account.
Amini was arrested on Sept. 13 in Tehran for “inappropriate attire.” The authorities have said she suffered a heart attack after being taken to a station to be “educated.”
Her family have denied she had any heart problems. Her father has said she had bruises on her legs, and holds police responsible for her death.
The government has ordered an investigation.
Earlier this week, state media said a judicial case had been opened into Shakarami’s death, citing officials claiming it had nothing to do with the unrest, and that she had fallen off a roof and her body contained no bullet wounds. Activists have said she was killed in Tehran while demonstrating.


Lebanon inspecting new suspected cases of cholera

Lebanon inspecting new suspected cases of cholera
Updated 07 October 2022

Lebanon inspecting new suspected cases of cholera

Lebanon inspecting new suspected cases of cholera
  • News comes almost a month after an outbreak of the illness in neighboring war-torn Syria
  • A cholera infection is caused by consuming food or water infected with the Vibrio cholerae bacteria
BEIRUT: Lebanon’s health minister said on Friday that authorities are inspecting suspected cases of cholera, less than a day after the cash-strapped country confirmed its first case of the illness since 1993.
The news came almost a month after an outbreak of the illness in neighboring war-torn Syria.
Firas Abiad, Lebanon’s caretaker health minister, said in a press conference that the first case was a middle-aged Syrian refugee man living in the impoverished northern province of Akkar, and confirmed a second case in the area.
“There are several other suspected cases,” Abiad said. “Cholera is an illness that is easily transmissible.”
The developments take place as Lebanon's economy continues to spiral, plunging three-quarters of its population into poverty. Rampant power cuts, water shortages, and skyrocketing inflation have deteriorated living conditions for millions.
The Lebanese health minister added that the authorities have been working with the United Nations Children’s Fund and World Health Organization for weeks to ensure the cash-strapped country can respond to a possible outbreak, and expand testing capacities at hospitals and labs.
“We're making sure that there is safe water and a good sewage system,” Abiad said.
According to the WHO, a cholera infection is caused by consuming food or water infected with the Vibrio cholerae bacteria, and while most cases are mild to moderate, not treating the illness could lead to death.
About 1 million Syrian refugees who fled their country’s civil war reside in neighboring Lebanon. Most live in extreme poverty in tented settlements or in overcrowded apartments.
Poverty has also deepened for many Lebanese, with many families often rationing water, unable to afford private water tanks for drinking and domestic use.
The health minister said Lebanon has secured the necessary equipment and medicines to treat patients.
Richard Brennan, Regional Emergency Director of the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region told The Associated Press Thursday that the organization has also been coordinating with other countries neighboring Syria to help respond to a possible outbreak.
However, he said vaccines are in short supply due to global demand.
The UN and Syria’s Health Ministry have said the source of the outbreak is likely linked to people drinking unsafe water from the Euphrates River and using contaminated water to irrigate crops, resulting in food contamination.
Syria’s health services have suffered heavily from its years-long war, while much of the country is short on supplies to sanitize water.
Syrian health officials as of Wednesday documented at least 594 cases of cholera and 39 deaths. Meanwhile, in the rebel-held northwest of the country, health authorities documented 605 suspected cases, dozens of confirmed cases, and at least one death.

Lebanese banks close again after holdups by depositors seeking their own money

Lebanese banks close again after holdups by depositors seeking their own money
Updated 07 October 2022

Lebanese banks close again after holdups by depositors seeking their own money

Lebanese banks close again after holdups by depositors seeking their own money
  • Banks will continue urgent operations for clients and back-office services for businesses

BEIRUT: Lebanese banks have unanimously decided to close their doors to clients indefinitely after a series of holdups by depositors seeking funds frozen in the banking system because of the country’s financial meltdown, two bankers told Reuters.
Banks will continue urgent operations for clients and back-office services for businesses, the bankers said, but front-office services will remain suspended after more than a dozen holdups in less than a month.
Banks closed for about a week last month in similar circumstances, but reopened at the beginning of October to allow employees to withdraw salaries.
Lebanon’s banks association has previously called on the government to enact formal capital controls to replace the informal controls banks adopted in 2019, but parliament has repeatedly failed to pass the law.
The government has made little progress toward reforms that would unlock an International Monetary Fund bailout to help ease a crisis caused by decades of wasteful spending and corruption.
Now in its third year, Lebanon’s financial meltdown has sunk the currency by more than 90 percent, spread poverty, paralyzed the financial system and frozen depositors out of their savings in Lebanon’s most destabilising crisis since the 1975-90 civil war.


Arab states condemn armed attack on kindergarten in Thailand

Arab states condemn armed attack on kindergarten in Thailand
Updated 07 October 2022

Arab states condemn armed attack on kindergarten in Thailand

Arab states condemn armed attack on kindergarten in Thailand
  • The foreign ministries of the UAE,  Jordan and Egypt released statements on Thursday strongly condemning the attack

Several Arab states condemned an attack on a preschool daycare center in Thailand that killed at least 36 people, most of them children. 

The foreign ministries of the UAE,  Jordan and Egypt released statements on Thursday strongly condemning the attack and expressing sincere condolences to the Thai government and families of the victims, wishing a speedy recovery for those injured.

Meanwhile, Kwauti’s Prime Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nawaf al-Sabah sent a cable of condolences to King Maha Vajiralongkorn. 

Police identified the killer as 34-year-old Panya Kamrab, a former police sergeant who was dismissed from service in January. According to a police report seen by Arab News, he was sacked after being found in possession of narcotics.

Panya is thought to have gone to the daycare center to find his son but when he failed to find the boy he began shooting. He then returned home, where he killed his wife and child.