Donald Trump touted in an overnight tweet that two ISIS fighters linked to beheadings in Syria has been taken into U.S. custody.
‘In case the Kurds or Turkey lose control, the United States has already taken the 2 ISIS militants tied to beheadings in Syria, known as the Beetles, out of that country and into a secure location controlled by the U.S. They are the worst of the worst!’ Trump posted to Twitter shortly after midnight Thursday morning.
Before Turkey invaded Syria, following Trump’s withdrawal of U.S. troops this week, two so-called ‘Beatles’ were taken into U.S. military custody. U.S. officials claim the move was made to prevent them from escaping into Syria as Kurdish forces are diverted by Turkey’s invasion.
Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh were part of a group of four of these British ISIS soldiers who beheaded seven American, British and Japanese journalists and aid workers and a group of Syrian soldiers.
They also posted videos on social media where they bragged about the beheadings.
Donald Trump boasted two ISIS beheaders, nicknamed ‘Beatles,’ were taken into U.S. custody
Trump touting the detainees movement comes amid reports that Attorney General Bill Barr is pushing to have the captors prosecuted in the U.S.
Roughly 40 individuals considered important Islamic State figures, including the two ‘Beatles,’ were transferred to U.S. custody. They were previously being held in several separate small prisons in northeast Syria.
The prisons can no longer hold these prisoners as Kurdish guards are being pulled to defend against the invasion from Turkey. The Kurds have been the U.S. military’s primary partner is the fight against ISIS in Syria.
The goal of detaining the ‘Beatles’ in Syria was to have them stand trial in the U.S.
In recent weeks, Attorney General Bill Barr has expressed to Trump that he wants to make detaining and prosecuting these individuals in the U.S. a ‘priority’ – and a person familiar with the matter told the Washington Post the president ‘immediately agreed.’
Since President Trump decided to pull American troops out of Northern Syria there are fears the men would escape from Syrian jail after a Turkish invasion.
Prosecutors would reportedly seek to charge the two men as ‘conspirators in hostage-taking resulting in death’. Those charges carry a potential death sentence, the Washington Post reports.
A senior official said the men have been taken to Iraq, while another called them ‘high-valued detainees’ and could not disclose where they were being taken.
The two ‘Beatles,’ Alexanda Kotey known as ‘Jihadi Ringo’ (left) and and El Shafee Elsheikh (right), are in U.S. custody. They were part of a group of four British ISIS soldiers who beheaded seven American, British and Japanese journalists and aid workers and a group of Syrian soldiers
Smoke rises at the site Ras al-Ayn city as Turkish troops along with the Syrian National Army begin Operation Peace Spring in northern Syria on Wednesday
If this is true, and the detained men were transferred over international borders, it could prove more complicated for the U.S. to prosecute.
Transferring a person from one country to another with the intention of circumventing the original country’s laws – specifically regarding interrogation, detention and torture – is a practice called extraordinary rendition.
Extraordinary rendition, although not illegal under U.S. law, is considered a crime against humanity by the United Nations.
Prosecution of those detained by the U.S. relies on whether British authorities will release evidence to American courts. The issue is currently being decided in the Supreme Court of the U.K.
The third ‘Beatle’, Mohammed Emwazi, is accused of killing Americans James Foley, Steven Sotloff, and Peter Kassig. Emwazi was killed in a drone strike in 2015.
The fourth member, Aine Davis, was convicted in Turkey and sentenced to seven years in prison.
Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the start of the offensive – called ‘Operation Peace Spring’ – on Wednesday afternoon, and soon after, jets and artillery bombarded Kurdish positions along the border – sending thousands of civilians fleeing.
The intensive shelling paved the way for Turkish troops to start crossing the Syrian border on Wednesday evening.
Trump – who ordered American troops out of the area – said Turkey’s incursion into the area was a ‘bad idea’ and said that Washington ‘does not endorse this attack.’
The other two members of the ‘Beatles’ group infamous for their beheadings were Mohammed Emwazi (left), who was killed in a drone strike in 2015. The fourth member, Aine Davis (right) was convicted in Turkey and sentenced to seven years in prison
In the statement, Trump added that Turkey had committed to ‘ensuring no humanitarian crisis takes place – and we will hold them to this commitment.’
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said Turkish warplanes had caused ‘huge panic’ when they attacked the Kurdish-held territory today, and have claimed the bombing has killed five civilians and wounded others.
SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali said on Twitter: ‘Turkish warplanes have started to carry out air strikes on civilian areas.’
Britain does not support any invasion of northern Syria by Turkish troops, a minister warned on Tuesday, after Trump ordered U.S. forces to leave the area and leave their Kurdish allies defenseless.
Foreign Office Minister Andrew Murrison said Britain would ‘oppose’ any military incursion by its Nato ally in the wake of the widely-criticized American pull-out.
But Trump continued to defend Washington’s relationship with Recep Erdogan’s regime after a bipartisan backlash over his decision on Monday.
Critics fear the move will open the way for a Turkish strike on Kurdish-led forces long allied with Washington who have led the fight against the Islamic State militant group in Syria.
Turkey says those forces are terrorists because of their ties to Kurdish militants who have waged a long insurgency in Turkey.