Sep 2, 2021 - Politics & Policy

ISIS militant pleads guilty to role in scheme that killed four Americans

Photo of the exterior of the DOJ building, which has "Department of Justice" displayed

Photo: Samuel Corum via Getty Images

An ISIS militant pleaded guilty Thursday to all charges related to his participation in a "brutal" scheme to capture, torture and ultimately behead hostages in Syria, including four Americans, the Justice Department said Thursday.

Why it matters: Alexanda Amon Kotey, a former British citizen who was part of an ISIS cell dubbed "The Beatles," is among those responsible for the 2014 executions of American journalist James Foley and other hostages, according to the DOJ.

  • Kotey supervised ISIS' jails and, with other ISIS members, engaged in a "prolonged pattern" of physical and psychological violence against the hostages, which often ended with public beheadings that were videotaped and uploaded online.

Details: Kotey's actions, which included forcing hostages to witness other hostages' murders, were part of an effort to compel the U.S. government and victims' family members to pay ransoms for their release, according to the DOJ.

    • The four Americans in his custody were Foley, Kayla Jean Mueller, Steven Joel Sotloff and Peter Edward Kassig. They all died as ISIS hostages.
    • Video of Foley's beheading spurred widespread public rebuke of the militant group, and helped galvanize support for the U.S. campaign to destroy ISIS.
  • The Syrian Democratic Forces captured Kotey and an alleged co-conspirator in January 2018 as they were attempting an escape to Turkey. He faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison and is scheduled for sentencing on March 4, 2022.

What they're saying: "This guilty plea ensures that Kotey will spend the rest of his life in prison for the horrific crimes he has committed," Mark J. Lesko, acting assistant attorney general for the DOJ’s National Security Division, said in a statement.

  • "Although there remains much work to be done in this case, we hope today’s events provide some measure of justice for Kotey’s victims and their families as they continue to grieve the loss of their loved ones."
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