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Former ISIS Militant Goes on Trial for Hostage Killings of U.S. Aid Workers, Journalists

© Associated Press / Khalid Mohammed
© Associated Press / Khalid Mohammed

The trial of an former Islamic State (ISIS) militant accused of taking part in hostage killings of U.S. aid workers and journalists is set to begin in a Virginia federal court on Monday, The Washington Post reported

Prosecutors plan to play video clips showing ​​El Shafee Elsheikh volunteering to seek information from hostages to use to seek ransoms from multiple governments. 

Elsheikh, 33, is one of the four ISIS militants accused of the killings of U.S. journalists James Foley, Steven Sotloff, and aid workers Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller, who were in Syria reporting and aiding refugees during the Syrian civil war.

Authorities said Elsheikh, along with two others, guarded the hostages and handled ransom negotiations with countries as Mohamed Emwazi, referred to as “Jihadi John,” committed the killings. Emwazi was killed in a drone strike in 2015. 

Prosecutors allege Elsheikh is connected with the killings of British, Japanese, and Norwegian prisoners as well. 

In a previous statement, Elsheikh said the killings of the journalists and aid workers were plotted by ISIS but carried out by others, adding he was tortured by Kurdish forces when he and his friend, Alexandra Kotey, were captured in 2018, the Post reported.

Elsheikh reportedly said he directly negotiated ransoms with Norwegian and Japanese officials for the three individuals that were executed. 

A son of Sudanese immigrants who lived in London, Elsheikh has been accused of conspiracy to commit murder, hostage-taking resulting in death, conspiracy to commit hostage-taking resulting in death, and conspiracy to support a terrorist group resulting in death.

The former militant could be convicted of charges without being involved in killings if jurors find that he agreed to take part in the conspiracy to kill the hostages, the Post noted.

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