Isis Beatles: who were men accused of kidnapping UK and US hostages in Syria - and who were their victims?

The ‘Beatles’ were perhaps the most infamous cell of the terrorist group Islamic State - but what did they do and where are they now?

At its peak, Islamic State controlled an area the size of Ireland (Image: AFP/Getty Images)

Throughout the 2010s, the Islamic State group was one of the most feared terror organisations on the planet.

At its peak, the self-declared caliphate controlled swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq and claimed responsibility for terror attacks across the world, including the 2015 Paris attacks.

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Around this time, a group of men who carried out beheadings on camera became prominent in IS propaganda.

At its peak, Islamic State controlled an area the size of Ireland (Image: AFP/Getty Images)

Due to their British accents, this group became known as the ISIS ‘Beatles’.

But who were they, who did they murder - and what has happened to them since the fall of IS?

Here’s what you need to know.

Who were the Islamic State Beatles?

The Islamic State Beatles were a cell of the Islamic State terror group.

They were involved in multiple kidnappings and executions in Iraq and Syria.

It consisted of Mohammed Emwazi - the man who became known as ‘Jihadi John’ -  Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh.

James Foley’s kidnapping and beheading by the IS Beatles in Syria brought the terror cell worldwide attention (Image: AFP/Getty Images)

Two other men - Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary and Aine Davis - were also believed to have been part of the group.

All of the men were from west London and had travelled out to Syria between 2012 and 2013.

The cell was allegedly responsible for the beheadings of a number of Western and Japanese hostages, many of which were filmed.

Who were their alleged victims?

The ISIS Beatles are believed to have been responsible for the killings of the following people between 2014 and 2015:

  • Alan Henning (47) - a British former taxi driver who was working as a humanitarian aid worker
  • Peter Kassig (26) - an American aid worker
  • Steven Sotloff (31) - an American-Israeli journalist
  • David Haines (44) - a British aid worker
  • James Foley (40) - an American freelance war correspondent
  • Kayla Mueller (26) - an American human rights activist and humanitarian aid worker
  • Kenji Goto (47) - a Japanese journalist
  • Haruna Yukawa (42) - a Japanese defence contractor

What happened to the IS Beatles?

In 2016, IS confirmed that Mohammed Emwazi - who had been the most vocal in the group’s beheading videos - had been killed in a drone strike, which was believed to have taken place near Raqqa.

Then in 2018, with IS in retreat, Kurdish forces captured Kotey and Elsheikh as they tried to flee into Turkey.

They were sent to the US to face justice and are set to go on trial in January 2022.

Kotey has made a guilty plea to charges including conspiring to torture and behead American and European hostages in Syria.

He has agreed to meet all of the victims’ families and will be allowed to return to the UK after 15 years in a US jail to serve the rest of his sentence.

Elsheikh has maintained his innocence.

The pair were reportedly stripped of their UK nationality in 2018 - a move which echoes the UK’s treatment of other IS-affiliated nationals, like Shamima Begum.

Less prominent members Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary and Aine Davis have also been caught.

Abdel Bary was arrested in Spain in April 2020 and is awaiting trial in the country.

Davis was convicted on terrorism charges in Turkey in 2017 and is most of the way through a seven-and-a-half year sentence.

What is tonight’s ITV documentary about?

On Monday night (22 November) ITV aired a one-off documentary about what the ISIS Beatles did called ‘The Isis “Beatles”: Blood On Their Hands’.

The programme contained interviews with the victims’ families and will also included a first-hand account of what it was like to be held hostage by the group from survivor Marc Marginedas.

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