ISIS Militant Pleads Guilty To Role In Deaths Of Four Americans In Syria

A militant fighter for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a foreign terrorist organization, pleaded guilty today to all charges that were pending against him in the United States relating to his participation in a brutal hostage-taking scheme that resulted in the deaths of four American citizens, as well as the deaths of British and Japanese nationals, in Syria.

According to court records, from in or around November 2012 through on or about Feb. 7, 2015, former British citizen Alexanda Amon Kotey, 37, served as an ISIS fighter and participated in the captivity of American and European hostages in Syria. Kotey specifically participated in the seizure, detention and hostage negotiations for four American citizens – James Wright Foley, Kayla Jean Mueller, Steven Joel Sotloff and Peter Edward Kassig – each of whom died as hostages in ISIS custody. In addition, Kotey participated in hostage operations involving British, Italian, Danish and German nationals, among others.

According to court records, Kotey and two other ISIS members supervised the terrorist organization’s jails and detention facilities at which the hostages were held and were responsible for transferring hostages between detention facilities. Kotey and his co-conspirators engaged in a prolonged pattern of physical and psychological violence against hostages that was meant as an effort to control the hostages. These actions were also intended to compel the victims’ family members and the U.S. government to pay large monetary ransoms for their release, in addition to compelling the U.S. government to agree to other terms and conditions for the victims’ return.

In addition to physically and psychologically abusing the hostages, Kotey and his co-conspirators participated in forcibly exposing the hostages to the murder of other hostages held by ISIS, including a Russian hostage who was killed in or about February 2014 and a Syrian prisoner who was executed on or about April 25, 2014. After a group of European hostages were forced to witness the execution of the Syrian prisoner, Kotey and his co-conspirators returned the hostages to the prison where they were being held with American and British hostages.

From August 2014 through October 2014, ISIS released videos depicting the beheadings of James Foley, Steven Sotloff and British citizens David Haines and Alan Henning. In November 2014, ISIS released a video depicting the decapitated head of Peter Kassig. In January 2015, ISIS released videos depicting the decapitated body of Japanese citizen Haruna Yukawa and the beheading of Japanese citizen Kenji Goto. On or about Feb. 7, 2015, Kayla Mueller’s family received an email from ISIS fighters confirming Mueller’s death in Syria.

Kotey was part of a group of four ISIS members who spoke with British accents and were referred to by the hostages as the “Beatles.” Kotey and alleged co-conspirator El Shafee Elsheikh, 33, whose case remains pending in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, were captured together in January 2018 by the Syrian Democratic Forces as they attempted to escape Syria for Turkey. Mohamed Emwazi, who conducted the videotaped beheadings referenced above, was killed in November 2015 in a U.S. military airstrike in Syria.

Kotey pleaded guilty to all of the offenses charged in the eight-count indictment, consisting of one count of conspiracy to commit hostage taking resulting in death; four counts of hostage taking resulting in the deaths of the four Americans (James Wright Foley, Kayla Jean Mueller, Steven Joel Sotloff and Peter Edward Kassig); one count of conspiracy to murder U.S. citizens outside of the United States; one count of conspiracy to provide material support or resources to terrorists resulting in the deaths of U.S., British and Japanese nationals; and one count of conspiracy to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization resulting in the deaths of U.S., British and Japanese nationals.

Kotey faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison and is scheduled to be sentenced on March 4, 2022 by Senior U.S. District Judge T. S. Ellis, III.