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ISIS ‘Beatle’ sentenced to 8 life terms in killings of US hostages

El Shafee Elsheikh was sentenced to 8 life terms for kidnapping and murdering journalist James Foley as well as the detention and murders of three others.

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On Friday in a U.S. district court, one of the British Islamic State terrorists dubbed “the Beatles” by their hostages was sentenced to 8 concurrent life terms for his role in the kidnapping and murder of freelance journalist James Foley and the detention and murders of three other Americans.

On the eighth anniversary of Foley’s death, which was shown to the world in a chilling beheading video by ISIS, El Shafee Elsheikh, 34, was sentenced. Journalist Steven Sotloff, human rights activist Kayla Mueller, and aid worker Peter Kassig were all victims of Elsheikh’s kidnapping and murder, for which he was also convicted and sentenced.

Prosecutors at Elsheikj’s sentencing hearing in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia described him as the most notorious, highest-ranking member of ISIS to face trial in the United States. Elsheikj was captured in Syria in 2018 along with fellow “Beatle” Alexanda Kotey. The four had killed four Americans, as well as several British and Japanese nationals, and held 26 hostage in Syria.

In April, Kotey received a life sentence for his crime.

On Friday, Judge T.S. Ellis called the crimes “horrendous,” highlighting Elsheikh’s role in the sexual abuse of Mueller, his decision to provide false testimony to law enforcement, and his leadership role in the group.

Elsheikh and Kotey were spared the death penalty as a result of a prior agreement with the United Kingdom. In 2016, a drone strike in Syria took the life of Mohammed Emwazi, another member of the group. Aine Lesley Davis, the fourth member, was arrested in Turkey and extradited to the UK earlier this year on terrorism charges.

Following the sentencing, Elsheikh immediately filed an appeal with the court citing ineffective council. Ellis countered with “I think you have been diligent,” responding to the defense.

In her testimony on Friday, James Foley’s mother Diane Foley directly addressed Elsheikh, saying, “In comparison to hatred, love is immensely powerful. To be honest, Elsheikh, I feel bad for you.”

She told reporters Friday that more than 67 U.S. nationals are currently detained and held hostage abroad.

“I urgently call on our President Biden to employ our shrewdest negotiation to quickly bring these innocent Americans home, lest they die in captivity as our sons and daughter did,” Foley said in an appeal to President Joe Biden.

In the wake of her son’s death, Foley established the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation to protect journalists around the world and to speak up for Americans who are being held hostage abroad.

To which she elaborated, “Let this sentencing serve as a warning to anyone thinking of kidnapping, torturing, or killing an American abroad: you will pay a heavy price. That American law enforcement will track you down no matter where you may be, and that you will be made to answer for the crimes you committed against Americans.”

Marsha and Carl Mueller, the parents of Kayla Mueller, told reporters Friday that they have not given up looking for their daughter’s remains. The parents are enlisting the help of private organizations in their search for Kayla and information about her disappearance. Reporters were told that FBI Director Christopher Wray reassured them, “we will not stop until we find Kayla.”

The 26-year-old was kidnapped by ISIS in August 2013 while on a humanitarian mission in Turkey. She had crossed into Syria to visit a hospital. In February 2015, U.S. officials confirmed that she died while in ISIS custody.

Friday was Elsheikh’s sentencing, but he chose not to say anything in court. When asked by reporters, Marsha Mueller said, “I was hoping he would be but I wasn’t shocked that he is going to appeal.”

“He’s obviously cold with no remorse throughout the whole trial,” Carl Mueller said of Elsheikh, “and I still think he believes he was doing the right thing.”

Both families said they met with Kotey. Marsha Mueller told the media that Kotey ” did articulate some remorse,” for which she was thankful.

Foley emphasized the importance of the government acting quickly to secure the release of detained Americans and avoid adding unnecessary complications to the repatriation process.

Carl Mueller was very critical of the Obama administration, saying that they had “every opportunity to bring [Kayla] home” during the 18 months that she was allegedly held captive.

“Our kids paid the price, but hopefully in the future our government will follow the lead of so many others and bring their people home safely. Should not abandon them for a period of 18 months.”