The last member of the ISIS cell known as the “Beatles,” a British group of fighters, was convicted by a jury in Virginia on Thursday of assisting in the kidnapping and deaths of four Americans between 2012 and 2015.
El Shafee Elsheikh was charged with eight counts including four conspiracy charges relating to his work with ISIS and four charges of hostage taking resulting in death of Americans James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Kayla Mueller and Peter Kassig.
Over the two-week trial, former hostages testified about the brutal beatings and torture they endured under the three members of the Beatles, who they nicknamed “John, George and Ringo.” Elsheikh, according to prosecutors, was “Ringo.”
Family members of the victims also testified during the trial, including Kassig’s father, Edward, as well as Foley’s mother and brother, Diane and Michael.
The three Beatles, Mohamed Emwazi, Alexanda Kotey and Elsheikh, would take hostages in order to demand the release of ISIS militants in prison or to collect ransom. Some hostages were released after large ransoms were paid, but others were executed by the group on camera for propaganda films.
Kotey pleaded guilty in September and Emwazi, who prosecutors say was responsible for several of the beheadings of hostages, was killed in a drone strike in 2015.
“The evidence demonstrates that they grew up together, radicalized together, fought as high-ranking ISIS fighters together, held hostages together, tortured and terrorized hostages together,” prosecutor Raj Parekh said Wednesday. “What these horrific crimes left behind is a legacy of brutal killings and shattered families.”
A former ISIS member also testified during the trial, telling the jury that Elsheikh, who he identified in the courtroom, was an ISIS fighter and appeared to be a high-ranking member. Omer Kuzu, 26, left his home in Dallas, Texas, to join ISIS in 2014 and pleaded guilty in 2020 to conspiring to provide material support to ISIS.
“He was an important person,” Kuzu testified, adding that the type of pistol he says Elsheikh carried “was a symbol of ISIS aristocracy,” because the pistol, a Glock, was rare and expensive.
Elsheikh’s defense has tried to claim that he was a “simple ISIS fighter,” and had been mistakenly identified as a member of the notorious Beatles terror cell.
This story has been updated with additional details.