A British-born terrorist has been jailed for life in the US for his role in the killings of Western hostages in Syria.
Alexanda Kotey, originally from Paddington, west London, was one of four so-called Islamic State militants nicknamed The Beatles by their captives due to their English accents.
The group, said to include ringleader Mohammed Emwazi, known as Jihadi John, El Shafee Elsheikh and Kotey, was responsible for the brutal killings of a number of Western hostages, believed to include Britons Alan Henning and David Haines.
The 38-year-old Islam convert showed no emotion as Judge Thomas Selby Ellis delivered his verdict at Alexandria District Court, Virginia, while members of his victims’ families watched on.
He was handed a life sentence for each of the eight counts he previously pleaded guilty to, which are due to run concurrently.
Judge Ellis described Kotey’s actions as “egregious, violent and inhumane”.
Speaking of Kotey’s victims, the judge said: “These were not prisoners of war, these weren’t soldiers in the field… they were soldiers for good.”
Isis victims ‘undeniably heroes’
Thirteen impact statements were read to the court from members of the victims’ families – including those of Henning and Haines.
With emotion in his voice following the statements, Judge Ellis said: “We have all witnessed (the) exceptionally moving, heart-rending statements of these victims’ families.
“It should be a reminder of what we knew about the hostages.
“Countries celebrate heroes and we should celebrate these individuals who demonstrated courage, purpose and compassion under the most difficult of circumstances.
“The victims of the hostage-taking by Isis are undeniably heroes.”
El Shafee Elsheikh, Kotey’s co-defendant, was also present for the victim impact statements at the court hearing. He is due to be sentenced on 12 August after being convicted of his role in the murder plot.
Kotey pleaded guilty in September last year to several charges, apparently agreeing to fully co-operate with authorities as part of his plea agreement.
These included four counts of hostage-taking resulting in death; conspiracy to commit hostage-taking resulting in death; conspiracy to murder United States citizens outside of the United States; conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, hostage-taking and murder, resulting in death; and conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organisation resulting in death.
Kotey said when he departed the UK he held “the belief and understanding that the Islamic concept of armed jihad was a valid and legitimate cause and means by which a Muslim defends his fellow Muslim against injustice”.
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He admitted his role in capturing hostages and said when his involvement in that came to an end, he worked in IS’s recruitment division, as a sniper and in the terror group’s “English media department”.
His charges were in relation to the killings of four US hostages – journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and aid workers Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller.
However, the families of other murdered hostages, including Mr Henning and Mr Haines, read impact statements to the federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, before sentencing.
Kotey’s co-defendant, Elsheikh, was convicted this month of his role in the murder plot, and is expected to be sentenced at a later date.
Emwazi was killed in a drone strike in 2015, and Davis was jailed in Turkey in 2017.