Two British fighters believed to have been part of a cell of the Islamic State group that beheaded hostages should face trial, relatives of some of the cell’s alleged victims have said.
Alexanda Kotey, and El Shafee Elsheikh were captured by Syrian Kurdish forces.
They were two of the four British IS members widely known as “the Beatles”.
Bethany Haines – whose father David, an American aid worker was beheaded by the cell – said “they should be locked up and throw away the key”.
“My personal opinion is that they should die a long, slow, painful death. But realistically that’s not going to happen,” she said.
She said that if there is a trial, she will attend and “look them in the eye and let them know I am who I am and they have certainly destroyed a big part of my life”.
Diane Foley – whose son James, an American journalist, was beheaded by the cell – said she wanted the two men to face life imprisonment.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Their crimes are beyond imagination.”
Mrs Foley said that she would like the men to face trial in the US but she would be “most grateful” as long as “they are brought to fair trial and detained and justice is served”.
“It doesn’t bring James back, but hopefully it protects others from this kind of crime,” she said.
James Foley was kidnapped by IS while reporting in Syria in 2012. In 2014, a video emerged showing his execution
Kotey and Elsheikh were the last two of “the Beatles” still at large. They and Mohammed Emwazi and Aine Davis had gained that nickname because of their British accents.
Elsheikh “earned a reputation for waterboarding, mock executions, and crucifixions” while serving as the cell’s guard, the US state department says.
Both men are designated terrorists by the US, which says they have used “exceptionally cruel torture methods.”
They both worked with the cell’s alleged ring-leader, Mohammed Emwazi. Dubbed Jihadi John, he was the masked militant from west London who featured in gruesome IS videos, taunting Western powers before beheading hostages.
Mr Foley was one of the victims whose death was seen in those videos. Others were British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning, US journalist Steven Sotloff, and American aid worker Peter Kassig.
Aine Davis, also from west London and the fourth member of the cell, was convicted of being a senior IS member. He was jailed in Turkey last year on terrorism charges after being arrested near Istanbul in 2015.
Nicolas Henin, a French journalist who spent 10 months as an IS captive, also told Today that he wanted justice.
He stressed that any attempt to deny the men of their civil rights would only feed IS’s claims of victimisation by the West.
“For them, they were doing it for revenge, against all the grievances they can argue against the western world, which are largely fantasised, and this is why I am now looking for justice and not revenge,” he said.
“I will be extremely frustrated if they were not offered a fair trial and I don’t think the local authorities in northern Syria or detention in Guantanemo Bay would be justice.”
US officials said the “execution cell” had beheaded at least 27 hostages and tortured many more. They confirmed the latest arrests.
Officials quoted by US media said the two men had been captured by members of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who are targeting remnants of IS.
It is understood that Kotey and Elsheikh have been stripped of their British citizenship, but the Home Office says it cannot comment on individual cases.
The pair are said to have provided valuable intelligence following their capture. That may be helpful in answering the wider question of what happened to the foreign fighters as the so-called caliphate disintegrated.
How many of the thousands of foreign fighters were killed and how many went to other countries or would seek to come home? These men will have been priority targets – but not the only ones.
Their capture also raises the issue of what happens next. They could be put on trial in the US, since they were allegedly involved in the killing of US hostages – but there may be some in the Trump administration who would like to send them to Guantanamo Bay.
And it is not clear if this is – formally – an issue for the UK Government, as there are reports the pair may have had their UK citizenship stripped from them using powers available to the Home Office.