Another 'Beatle' Hears His Fate Over ISIS Hostages

UK national El Shafee Elsheikh, aka the 'Ringo' of the group, gets life in prison
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 19, 2022 12:38 PM CDT
Another 'Beatle' Hears His Fate Over ISIS Hostages
El Shafee Elsheikh is seen Oct. 7, 2020, in Alexandria, Va.   (Alexandria Sheriff's Office via AP)

British national El Shafee Elsheikh was sentenced to life in prison Friday for his role in an Islamic State scheme that took roughly two dozen Westerners hostage a decade ago. Elsheikh's hostages gave him a somewhat whimsical nickname—he was dubbed a "Beatle," along with other English-accented captors—but the moniker belied the viciousness of his conduct. "This prosecution unmasked the vicious and sadistic ISIS Beatles," said First Assistant US Attorney Raj Parekh, noting that Elsheikh and the other Beatles always wore masks when they appeared in front of their hostages, per the AP. Elsheikh, believed to be the "Ringo" of the group, is the most notorious and highest-ranking member of the Islamic State to ever be convicted in a US court, prosecutors said Friday at his sentencing hearing in US District Court in Alexandria, Va.

The life sentence was a foregone conclusion after a jury convicted him of hostage-taking resulting in death and other crimes earlier this year. The convictions revolved around the deaths of four American hostages: James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Peter Kassig, and Kayla Mueller. All but Mueller were executed in videotaped beheadings circulated online. Mueller was forced into slavery and raped multiple times by Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi before she was killed. They were among 26 hostages taken captive between 2012 and 2015, when the Islamic State group controlled large swaths of Iraq and Syria. The convictions carried a mandatory life sentence. The US agreed not to pursue death sentences as part of a deal that ensured extradition of Elsheikh and his friend, Alexanda Kotey, who has already been sentenced to life.

At trial, surviving hostages testified they dreaded the Beatles' appearance at the various prisons to which they were constantly shuttled and relocated. Elsheikh and the other Beatles played a key role in the hostage negotiations, getting hostages to email their families with payment demands. They also routinely beat and tortured the hostages; forced them to fight each other to the point of passing out; threatened them with waterboarding; and made them view images of slain hostages. Danish photographer Daniel Rye Ottosen, who was released after paying a ransom, said the worst moments were times of silence during and after captivity. He said when Elsheikh and the other Beatles beat him up, it was almost a relief. "I knew I could only concentrate on my pain, which is much easier than being alone with your thoughts," he said.

(More Islamic State stories.)

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