Alexanda Kotey, 36, a member of the British ISIS militant group dubbed the ‘Beatles‘, pleaded guilty to terrorism charges on Thursday for torturing and murdering captives in Syria, including four Americans.
Kotey, known as ‘Jihadi Ringo,’ plead guilty to all eight counts in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia for his part in aiding the terrorist organization.
He had originally plead non-guilty last October. The change of plea suggests that Kotey may be cooperating with prosecutors.
He and another British ISIS member, El Shafee Elsheikh, 32, known as ‘Jihadi George’ were implicated in the beheadings of international hostages, including U.S. aid workers Kayla Mueller and Peter Kassig and U.S. journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.
Both men have been charged with hostage-taking resulting in death, conspiracy to commit murder against U.S. citizens abroad, and conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists.
Nothing in the court records indicates that Elsheikh, known as George, has reached a plea deal. He is scheduled to go on trial in January.
British Islamic State (IS) group fighters Alexanda Kotey known as ‘Jihadi Ringo’ (left) and El Shafee Elsheikh known as ‘Jihadi George’ (right), posing for mugshots in an undisclosed location (2018)
Mohammed Emwazi known as ‘Jihadi John’ brandishing a knife (left) Jailed in Turkey is Aine Davis known as ‘Jihadi Paul’ (right)
Kotey and Elsheikh were part of a terrorist group of four men from west London nicknamed the ‘Beatles’. They were led by Mohammed Emwazi, aka ‘Jihadi John’ who was killed in a targeted CIA air-strike in 2015. The fourth member, Aine Lesley Davis, known as ‘Jihadi Paul’ was sentenced to serve seven and a half years in a Turkish prison in 2017.
Escaped ISIS hostages said they named the four men ‘The Beatles’ because of their British accents.
Standing at the podium Kotey told Judge T.S. Ellis III that he was aware that the minimum sentence he faces for his crimes is life without parole. The U.S. government previously stated that they will not seek the death penalty in order to obtain their extradition.
Family members of all four Americans who were killed appeared in court to hear Kotey’s plea but did not speak.
Kotey and Elsheikh had been held in Iraq by the U.S. military before being flown to the U.S. last year to face trial. The two men were UK citizens but had their citizenship revoked in 2018 when they were captured by Syrian Kurds fighting IS.
They had renounced their citizenship when they joined ISIS in Syria in 2014.
They allegedly took part in graphic extremist videos that were posted online showing beheadings of foreign hostages.
The torture of the hostages allegedly included electric shocks with a taser, forcing hostages to fight each other and 20-minute beatings with sticks and waterboarding, according to the 24-page indictment.
The two men are also suspected of being involved in the deaths of other hostages including Alan Henning, a British taxi driver who was delivering aid, David Haines, a Scottish aid worker, and two Japanese nationals.
The mother of Elsheikh mounted a legal challenge saying it would breach the UK’s opposition to capital punishment, and a deal was struck between the U.S. and and the UK.
A British Supreme Court judgment ruled it was unlawful for the UK to share evidence with Washington without seeking assurances that the pair will not face execution. Since the U.S. agreed to the deal the UK has shared intelligence.
Kotey who is charged with plotting to torture and behead Western hostages in Syria said in court that he was aware that the minimum sentence he faces for his crimes is life without parole(pictured in 2018)
The 24-page indictment accuses Kotey (left) and Elsheikh (right) of participating in the kidnapping of four U.S. citizens
American journalist James Foley was abducted by ISIS while working as a freelance war correspondent during the Syria Civil War.
Elsheikh previously admitted that Foley would sometimes subject himself to beatings to ensure the hostages were given enough food.
‘If the guard would ask, ‘Is the food enough?’ some of the other prisoners were very timid. It was always him who would say, ‘It’s not enough”, Elsheikh said.
He also said: ‘I didn’t choke Jim.
‘If I choked Jim I would say I choked him. I mean, I’ve — I’ve hit him before. I’ve hit most of the prisoners before.’
Foley was held by ISIS for two years before being executed on video in August 2014.
American aid worker Kayla Mueller was captured and held hostage in Syria, where she was sexually abused and tortured before she died aged 26 in 2015.
She was abducted in 2013 and during her captivity, she was raped by the former ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, U.S. officials have said.
ISIS reportedly demanded 5 million euros from Mueller’s family, telling them that they would send ‘a picture of Kayla’s dead body’ if their demands were not met.
ISIS said that Mueller was killed near Raqa in February 2015 during an air raid carried out by the US-led international coalition against the jihadists, although the exact circumstances of her death remain unclear.
The terror group sent photos of her dead body to her family which indicate she died from blunt force trauma rather than a bomb blast.
Steven Sotloff, 31, an American-Israeli journalist, was killed on September 2, 2014, after being held captive for more than a year in northern Syria.
He was beheaded by Jihadi John on camera after ISIS demanded a ransom of $140million which the US government refused to pay.
Former US Army Ranger Peter Kassig was killed in 2014 after being captured by ISIS in Syria in October 2013.
The 26-year-old was working to provide aid to Syrians who were fleeing the country’s civil war and had formed the aid organization Special Emergency Response and Assistance, or SERA, in Turkey to provide aid and assistance to Syrian refugees.
He was said by his friends to have converted to Islam in captivity and took the first name Abdul-Rahman.
In 2014, graphic footage was released by ISIS showing Kassig was beheaded in captivity.
Kotey has been charged in connection with the deaths of journalist James Foley (left) and aid worker Peter Kassig (right)
Kotey is also charged over the death of U.S. human rights activist and humanitarian workers Kayla Mueller (left) and Steven Sotloff (right)
The indictment says Kotey and Elsheikh were radicalized in London and left for Syria in 2012 as ‘leading participants in a brutal hostage-taking scheme’ that targeted American and European citizens and that involved murders, mock executions, shocks with Tasers, physical restraints and other brutal acts.
Prosecutors say the men worked closely with a chief spokesman for ISIS who reported to the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was killed in a U.S. military operation last year.
The indictment accuses Kotey and Elsheikh of participating in the kidnapping of Foley and other captives.
It says they supervised detention facilities for hostages and were responsible for transferring the captives, and that they also engaged ‘in a long pattern of physical and psychological violence.’
In July, prosecutors described the pair as ‘principal offenders’ in the captivity of the four American hostages.
In a 2018 interview, Kotey said the killings were ‘regrettable’ but blamed Western governments for failing to negotiate.
He said many in the terror group ‘would have disagreed’ with the deaths ‘on the grounds that there is probably more benefit in them being political prisoners’.
He added: ‘I didn’t see any benefit (in killing them). It was something that was regrettable.’
Elsheikh said the killings were a ‘mistake’ and might not have been justified. But, he said, they were in retaliation for killings of civilians by the US-led coalition fighting ISIS.
He said the militants shouldn’t have initially threatened to kill the hostages because then they had to go ahead with it or else ‘your credibility may go.’
Kotey, who is of Ghanaian and Greek-Cypriot descent and converted to Islam in his 20s, is from London’s Paddington neighborhood.
Serving in the IS cell as a guard, he ‘likely engaged in the group’s executions and exceptionally cruel torture methods,’ the State Department said. It also said he was an IS recruiter who brought other Britons into the group.
In interviews they gave before being brought to the U.S., the men acknowledged they helped collect email addresses from Mueller that could be used to send out ransom demands. Mueller was killed in 2015 after 18 months in IS captivity.
The indictment describes the execution of a Syrian prisoner in 2014 and says the two forced their Western hostages to watch.
Kotey instructed the hostages to kneel while watching the execution and holding signs pleading for their release.
Emwazi shot the prisoner in the back of the head while Elsheikh videotaped the execution. Elsheikh told one of the hostages, ‘You’re next,’ prosecutors say.
Who are the ISIS Beatles?
Mohammed Emwazi – Jihadi John
Emwazi was one of the most prominent members of the so-called ISIS Beatles and was regularly seen carrying out executions in their horrific beheading videos.
He took part in the barbaric beheadings of British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning and US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and US humanitarian worker Peter Kassig.
The terrorist, who was born in Kuwait and grew up in Queen’s Park, West London, was charged with 27 counts of murder and five counts of hostage taking in November 2014.
He was killed in a Hellfire missile drone strike in Syria in 2015.
Aine Lesley Davis – Paul
Davis was born Aine Leslie Junior Davis in 1984 to Fay Rodriquez, and is believed to have spent the early years of his childhood in Hammersmith where his mother lived.
He was one of 13 children his father had by four different women.
The former tube driver, who has drug-dealing and firearms convictions to his name, converted to Islam while in prison.
In 2014 his wife, Amal el-Wahabi, was convicted of funding terrorism after she persuaded a friend to try and smuggle £16,000 in cash in her underwear to him.
Davis was captured by Turkish security officials in 2015 and was later found guilty of being a senior member of a terrorist organization and was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison.
Alexanda Kotey – Ringo
Kotey, 36, was born to a Ghanaian father and a Greek Cypriot mother and grew up in Shepherd’s Bush, London.
Before his radicalization, he is thought to have worked as a drug dealer before converting to Islam in his early 20s.
In 2012, he left for Syria where the US claims he was involved in beheadings and known for administering ‘exceptionally cruel torture methods’, including electronic shocks.
He is also accused of acting as an ISIS recruiter who convinced a number of other British extremists to join the terror group.
Kotey was captured in Syria while trying to escape to Turkey in 2018 and was held in a US military center in Iraq.
The British Government wanted him tried in the US, where officials believe there is a more realistic chance of prosecution than in the UK.
He was extradited last year and was charged with a number of terror offences.
El Shafee Elsheikh
El Shafee Elsheikh – George
Born in Sudan, Elsheikh, 32, grew up in West London and is the final member of the four British terrorists who fled to join ISIS.
He has been linked to the killings of a number of hostages after heading to Syria to join the extremist group.
He was captured along with Kotey when they tried to flee to Turkey in 2018 and has since been transported to the US where he now faces charges relating to terrorism and beheading Western hostages.