The US military took custody of two Daesh members originating from the UK who were in Kurdish custody in northern Syria, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
The US military made the move due to the Turkish military incursion in Syria, the report says.
It is unclear where the two Daesh members - El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey - will be taken. One senior US official cited by the Post said the two will be taken to Iraq – possibly along with a group of other “high-value” detainees. Other officials confirmed that the pair is now in the US military’s custody, but could not provide their new location.
The two are what is left of the four-man group of terrorists nicknamed “Beatles” because of their British accents. One member of the group was killed in a drone attack in 2015, while the last is now in Turkish prison serving a seven-year sentence for participating in a terror group.
The US repeatedly called on the UK to take their Daesh fighters back. However, UK officials claimed in 2018 there is “not enough evidence” to prosecute them in their country of origin and expressed their hope that the two would be probed in the US. London stripped both men of their UK citizenship over their participation in the self-described caliphate.
The relocation of the duo to the US was thwarted by Maha Elgizouli, El Shafee Elsheikh’s mother, who in a lawsuit challenged the London decision to hand the two over to Washington. In a separate lawsuit, she demanded that London has not provided to Washington any evidence regarding her son, claiming that he might face a death penalty in the US.
According to the Post, a ”criminal prosecution” of the terrorists in the United States “rests on the ability to obtain evidence from British authorities”.
The men are accused of involvement in the beheading of journalist James Foley and other Western hostages but deny direct involvement in executions or torture.
According to the Post, the US military is instructed to not intervene in the Turkish fight with the Kurds, beyond moving an undisclosed group of “high-value detainees” to Iraq. In the meantime, Kurdish officials warn that they “struggle” to keep control over the Al-Hol detention camp which reportedly holds thousands of Daesh loyalists, including many foreigners, as the bulk of Kurdish forces are redirected up North to fend off the Turkish military incursion.
“We now face the very real prospect of 10,000 [Daesh] prisoners rejoining the battlefield,” US Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D.-N.H.) said in a statement Wednesday. The statement falls in line with massive criticism US President Trump caught after his decision not to intervene in the Turkish military operation and withdraw US troops from Syria.
Turkey announced its military operation earlier this week, and began its ground incursion in Syria on Wednesday, citing concerns of a Kurdish insurgence. Daesh, a terror group outlawed in Russia and many other countries, was mostly destroyed in Syria after a Russian intervention in the conflict in late 2015 on the invitation of the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.