The FBI is testing recently unearthed human remains found in Syria on suspicion they belong to ISIS hostages.
Humanitarian aid workers Kayla Mueller and Peter Kassig and journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff were all kidnapped and killed in the Middle Eastern country by the terror group.
Efforts have been to recover their bodies in the past but have been always been fruitless until now, after two captured ISIS guards Alexanda Amon Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, helped authorities locate the grave sites. The pair are allegedly among four British jihadis who made up a brutal Islamic State cell dubbed ‘The Beatles’ which also included the militant branded ‘Jihadi John.’
Humanitarian aid workers Kayla Mueller (left) and Peter Kassig (right) were kidnapped and killed in Syria country by the terror group
Journalists Steven Sotloff (left) and James Foley (right) were all murdered by the terror group
However, it appears the remains that have been recovered are in such a state of decomposition that it’s not clear who they remain to, ABC News reports.
They have been brought back to the US base, and sent to the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, for forensic and DNA testing to see of they match samples of the four American hostages taken by ISIS. It may be months before they are able to confirm the identities.
The discovery will give hope to the families of the ISIS victims who have been waiting years to finally lay their loves ones to rest.
‘We do really appreciate all the efforts being made,’ Diane Foley, the mother of journalist James Foley who was executed on video, told ABC News earlier this month.
She said she is remaining realistic and says her son probably is not among the remains but is grateful for all the efforts.
Alexanda Amon Kotey, left, and El Shafee Elsheikh, who were allegedly among four British jihadis who made up a brutal Islamic State cell dubbed ‘The Beatles’
The families of the victims are now calling on the US government to bring Kotey and Elsheikh to justice through the criminal courts.
In a joint op-ed to The New York Times the families of Mueller, Kassig, Foley and Sotloff urged Trump not to try the ISIS guards in the military court at Guantanamo or to execute them which they fear will turn them into martyrs.
‘Either path would make them martyrs in the eyes of their fanatic, misled comrades in arms — the worst outcome,’ they wrote. ‘Instead, they should be tried in our fair and open legal system, or in a court of international justice, and then spend the rest of their lives in prison. That is what our children would have wanted.’
Two weeks ago, the families were flown to Washington to meet with the top Trump officials to discuss how the ISIS members should be dealt with.
The official decision of how to deal with the pair has not yet been reached, sources told ABC News, but it would be rare for the government to ignore the wishes of the victims’ families.
A masked militant holding a knife and gesturing as he speaks to the camera in a desert landscape before beheading 31-year-old US freelance writer Steven Sotloff
Londoners Kotey and Elsheikh have had their British citizenship revoked since they were captured by Kurdish YPG fighters in January. Mohammed Emwazi, aka ‘Jihadi John’ was killed in a CIA drone strike in Raqqa, Syria, in 2016, while Aine Davis, the fourth alleged ‘Beatle,’ was captured in Turkey.
The UK have demanded that the men face a civilian trial, sources said.
The ‘Beatles’ jihadi group, named by surviving captives because of the members’ English accents, quickly became renowned for its brutality.
In 2014 and 2015, it held more than 20 Western hostages in Syria and tortured many of them.
It 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.
Speaking to The Associated Press at a Kurdish security center, Elsheikh and Kotey, repeatedly refused to address allegations they were part of the cell.
Alexanda Amon Kotey is believed to have been in the cell that captured, tortured and killed hostages including American, British and Japanese journalists and aid workers
They were captured in January in eastern Syria by the Kurdish-led, U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces amid the collapse of IS. Their detention has set off a debate in the U.S. and Europe over how to prosecute their citizens who joined IS – as the Kurds pressure the West to take them back to relieve overcrowding in prisons.
The two said the killings of the captives were a mistake – but for tactical reasons.
Many in ISIS ‘would have disagreed’ with the killings ‘on the grounds that there is probably more benefit in them being political prisoners,’ Kotey said.
‘I didn’t see any benefit (in killing them). It was something that was regrettable.’ He also blamed Western governments for failing to negotiate, noting that some hostages were released for ransoms.
Elsheikh said the killings were a ‘mistake’ and might not have been justified. But, he said, they were in retaliation for killings of civilians by the U.S.-led coalition fighting IS. He said the militants shouldn’t have initially threatened to kill the hostages because then they had to go ahead with it or else ‘your credibility may go.’
The beheadings, often carried out on camera, horrified the world soon after ISIS took over much of Iraq and Syria in 2014. The group also committed widescale atrocities including massacring thousands of Iraqi troops and civilians and taking sex slaves.
The first victim was American journalist James Foley, followed by fellow Americans Steven Sotloff and Peter Kassig, British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning and Japanese journalists Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto.
Families of the ISIS victims have urged the US government not to execute El Shafee Elsheikh (pictured) and Kotey, but to prosecute them in civilian court
Speaking to the AP on Friday, Foley’s mother, Diane Foley, called on the international community and U.S. government ‘to have the courage to hold these men accountable in an open trial where we can face them and they can hear all the pain and suffering they’ve inflicted on the world. And so that the rest of the world can understand the atrocity of their crimes.’
She said she opposes the death penalty for them since it feeds jihadi ‘desire for martyrdom and heroic afterlife.’
‘These men do not deserve that. They deserve to be held in solitary confinement for the rest of their lives.’
Elsheikh, whose family came to Britain from Sudan when he was a child, was a mechanic from White City in west London.
He traveled to Syria in 2012, initially joining al-Qaida’s branch before moving on to IS, according to the U.S. State Department’s listing of the two men for terrorism sanctions. It said he ‘earned a reputation for waterboarding, mock executions and crucifixions while serving as an (ISIS) jailer.’
Kotey, who is of Ghanaian and Greek-Cypriot descent and converted to Islam in his 20s, is from London’s Paddington neighborhood.
Serving in the IS cell as a guard, he ‘likely engaged in the group’s executions and exceptionally cruel torture methods,’ the State Department said. It also said he was an IS recruiter who brought other Britons into the group.
Elsheikh and Kotey spoke to the AP at a Kurdish security building in the town of Kobani, where they were brought, initially in handcuffs and face covers that were removed. They were unrepentant about belonging to ISIS.
The U.S. has been pressing for the home countries of foreign jihadis in Iraq and Syria to take their nationals for trial. Britain’s defense secretary has said they should not be allowed back into the country.