U.S. moves 2 British IS members known as 'Beatles' from Syria

Clay Curtis
October 10, 2019

The move comes after Turkey began a military offensive into northern Syria against USA -backed Kurdish-led fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces who are holding more than 10,000 IS members.

Two "high-value" jihadists held by Syrian Kurds have been taken into USA custody and moved out of the country, a defense official said Wednesday, as reports identified them as notorious British fighters dubbed "The Beatles".

The intensive shelling paved the way for Turkish troops to start crossing the Syrian border on Wednesday evening.

US President Donald Trump had earlier said that the US was taking steps to prevent the potential escape of particularly unsafe Islamic State group fighters amid the Turkish offensive.

Turkey is attacking the USA -backed Syrian Defense Forces, a Kurdish force that battled the Islamic State group alongside American troops and now is responsible for guarding thousands of detained militants.

"We are taking some of the most risky ISIS fighters out and we're putting them in different locations where it's secure", Mr Trump said.

El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey are accused of being part of an Islamic State group cell which kidnapped and murdered Western hostages in Syria. The group beheaded seven American, British and Japanese journalists and aid workers and a group of Syrian soldiers, boasting of the butchery in videos released to the world.

The Turkish invasion of the Kurdish-held region, launched on Wednesday morning, threw into doubt the continued custody of the pair.

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"They have been moved out of Syria and are in a secure location", the official said, without identifying where.

The two British men were captured in January past year in eastern Syria by the Kurdish forces amid the collapse of IS. "The Beatles" terror cell is believed to have captured, tortured and killed hostages including American, British and Japanese journalists and aid workers.

Trump touting the detainees movement comes amid reports that Attorney General Bill Barr is pushing to have the captors prosecuted in the U.S.

In March, Kurdish and US forces cleared the last members of the Islamic State group from what was left of their self-declared caliphate, which once sprawled across a large part of Iraq and Syria.

About 30 to 50 US troops were moved out of the way from two outposts in the border region. Attacks had taken place in the immediate vicinity, they said.

The SDF have been holding prisoner some 10,000 captured Islamic State group fighters, which includes around 2,000 of foreign nationality. But global leaders have been largely reluctant and have been slow to take any back.

The UK does not normally allows its citizens to be extradited if they will face a death penalty charge, but when he was home secretary, Sajid Javid said he would not longer seek such assurances from the U.S. in the cases of Kotey and Elsheikh.

"Kidnapping people is illegal, but the question is whether that will be enforceable in the United States courts", he said.

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