UK deciding what to do with captured British IS militants

UK deciding what to do with captured British IS militants
Syrian Democratic Forces, the UK and US are discussing what should happen to two notorious IS militants currently in Kurdish custody.
3 min read
10 February, 2018
The four British militants were notorious for their cruelty towards the hostages. [Getty]

US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) would study any request to hand over two British Islamic State group militants captured by the Kurdish group, a senior official said on Friday.

The SDF said it had caught Alexanda Amon Kotey in eastern Syria in January as he tried to flee to neighbouring Turkey.

"We captured some big commanders. One of them is Alexanda Kotey," Redur Khalil, a spokesperson and senior official in the SDF, told AFP in the northeastern town of Amuda.

"He was captured by an anti-terrorism unit on 24 January in the countryside near Raqqa. He was trying to escape to Turkey in coordination with his friends and contacts on the Turkish side," he said.

A US defence official announced earlier that fellow Briton El-Shafee el-Sheikh, another "Beatles" member, had also been captured by Syrian rebel forces.

Aine Davis, a third member of the so-called "The Beatles" torture cell, is being held in Turkey. The fourth, Mohammed Emwazi - dubbed "Jihadi John" - was killed in a 2015 coalition drone strike. 

"We have not received any official request from any international party to hand over the two prisoners," Redur Xelil, the SDF official, told Reuters. Any such request would be studied, he added.

Earlier US and European officials said on Friday that the UK, the US and other officials in the region are discussing what should happen with the two militants.

"Together with our coalition partners, we are still considering options regarding el-Sheikh and Kotey, but rest assured there is a common intention to hold anyone accountable who commits acts like those they are alleged to have committed," said a spokesman for the US National Security Council.

Officials from the US coalition against IS had taken part in questioning the two Britons.

UK government officials declined to comment.

'Crimes beyond imagination'

The cell was believed to be behind the killing of American journalist James Foley and numerous Western aid workers.

Diane Foley, his mother, said she wanted the two men to face trial in the US and life imprisonment.

"Their crimes are beyond imagination," she told BBC radio.

"It doesn't bring James back, but hopefully it protects others from this kind of crime."

The New York Times reported on Thursday that the UK government had revoked the British citizenship of both Kotey and el-Sheikh.

London has taken similar action in the past against dual nationals who left the UK to join militant groups abroad.

Tobias Ellwood, UK defence minister, said Friday the pair should face an international war crimes tribunal and not be sent to Guantanamo Bay as some have speculated will occur.

He said terror suspects once captured "must answer and be judged to a legitimate authority".

"Given the scale of foreign fighters we should consider an agreed international process involving The Hague," he told The Daily Telegraph newspaper.

But the broadsheet reported London would not hinder any moves to extradite the pair to the US and there was little desire among ministers to repatriate them back to the UK.

It quoted Williamson as saying: "I don't think they should ever set foot in this country again."