LONDON: El Shafee Elsheikh, the former British national accused of being a member of the Daesh “Beatles,” was labeled as “Daesh aristocracy” by a former extremist at his trial in the US on Monday.
Elsheikh, 33, faces life in prison if convicted of playing a role in the kidnap and murder of four US citizens — aid workers Kayla Mueller and Peter Kassig, and journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff — in Syria in 2017.
Omer Kuzu, 26, from Dallas, Texas, who fought in Syria and was captured by Syrian Democratic Forces in 2019, said Elsheikh had been a senior figure in the group.
He told the court in Alexandria, Virginia that he met Elsheikh on four separate occasions between 2015 and 2017, and that Elsheikh had gone by the alias Abu Thabit.
When asked to identify Abu Thabit, Kuzu pointed at Elsheikh, saying: “He’s right there with the blue button-up shirt and the beard and glasses.”
Elsheikh, who was born in Sudan but grew up in London, is suspected of being part of a four-strong group of prominent Daesh members known as the “Beatles” on account of their British accents.
He denies being a part of the four, and claims to have just been a “simple Daesh fighter,” admitting to having played a part in the kidnapping and killing of two British aid workers, David Haines and Alan Henning.
Kuzu added, though, that on one occasion he met Elsheikh in Raqqa in 2016, where Elsheikh was carrying a Glock pistol, a prized item “only carried by wealthy individuals, or people with a lot of experience or people who had a position in the hierarchy. It was a symbol of Daesh aristocracy.”
The Texan said that Elsheikh was also noted for seniority by his donning of military fatigues rather than casual wear. “His green military uniform and the fact he was very reserved also told me that he was no ordinary member,” Kuzu said.
He added that Elsheikh worked in IT for Daesh, which, given its importance for communication, was a task entrusted to a select few members. “You had to be trusted,” he said, adding that the role would not be entrusted to a “simple member.”
Kuzu also claimed that he met Elsheikh “with a very tall individual carrying an M4” in 2017, who he identified as Alexanda Kotey, another member of the so-called “Beatles” and who was captured alongside Elsheikh in 2018.
He added that the high status nature of the weapon, along with Kotey’s “air of importance” also singled him out as being a senior figure. “They seemed to be a duo or some sort of tag team,” Kuzu said.
Acting for the defense, Edward MacMahon asked Kuzu whether people with British accents working and fighting for Daesh had been common, to which Kuzu replied that there had been “a lot.”
Kuzu is now awaiting sentencing for conspiring to provide material support for terrorism, while Kotey, too, is awaiting sentencing after admitting to the charges relating to kidnap, detention and murder leveled against him by US authorities.
Mohammed Emwazi, the third member of the “Beatles,” was killed in a drone strike in Raqqa in 2015, while the fourth member, Aine Davis, was arrested in Turkey the same year.