A member of the so-called “ISIS Beatles” was convicted by a federal court in Virginia on Thursday on all counts of assisting in the kidnapping and killings of four Americans.
El Shafee Elsheikh was found guilty of eight counts, including four conspiracy charges related to his work with ISIS and four charges of hostage taking that resulted in the deaths of Americans James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Kayla Mueller and Peter Kassig.
Elsheikh was part of a British group of ISIS fighters, along with Mohamed Emwazi and Alexanda Kotey, who would take hostages seeking to force the release of ISIS militants in prison or collect ransom, releasing some hostages after receiving payment while others were executed on camera.
Hostages nicknamed the group “John, George and Ringo” after three of the four members of The Beatles. Prosecutors said that Elsheikh was “Ringo.”
“Elsheikh, without a shadow of a doubt, is an ISIS Beatle,” prosecutor Raj Parekh told the jury.
Kotey pleaded guilty in September and Emwazi was killed in a drone strike in 2015.
“The evidence demonstrates that they grew up together, radicalized together, fought as high-ranking ISIS fighters together, held hostages together, tortured and terrorized hostages together,” Parekh said. “What these horrific crimes left behind is a legacy of brutal killings and shattered families.”
During the trial, former hostages testified of brutal beatings that they faced at the hands of their captors.
Danish photojournalist Daniel Rye testified that the men struck him in the ribs 25 times on his 25th birthday, hanged him by his hands and jammed the barrel of an MP5 submachine gun in his mouth.
Prosecutors said they also were responsible for beheading Foley, Sotloff and Kessing in ISIS videos in 2014 and 2015, as well as raping and abusing Mueller before she was killed.
Defense lawyer Nina Ginsberg said the United States never presented any evidence that Elsheikh was anything more than a “simple ISIS fighter,” arguing that he had been mistakenly identified as a member of the ISIS Beatles and noting that the was “never identified at this trial by any of the former hostages.”
However, former ISIS member Omer Kuzu identified Elsheikh as “an important person” within the terror group, and said the pistol he carried — a Glock — “was a symbol of ISIS aristocracy.”
Elsheikh faces a life sentence following the conviction after the United States reached an agreement with Britain to ensure he would not face the death penalty in exchange for aiding the prosecution.