The United States has taken custody of two Islamic State prisoners accused of taking part in beheading American journalists in 2014, The Washington Post reports.
The two men were taken from a Kurdish-run prison in northern Syria, where Kurdish forces can no longer guarantee they can keep detaining the prisoners after the Turkish military incursion.
The Post said the two are Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh. They were allegedly part of a quartet of British-born Islamic militants who their hostages dubbed “The Beatles.”
One U.S. official told the Post the two have been taken to Iraq, while another simply said they are in U.S. military custody but would not say where they are.
“The Beatles” were led by an IS militant named Mohammed Emwazi, nicknamed “Jihadi John.”
Emwazi beheaded American journalist James Foley, Israeli American journalist Steven Sotloff and U.S. aid worker Peter Kassig before a TV camera in 2014.
“The Beatles” are also suspected of murdering other Western hostages.
Emwazi was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2015. A fourth “Beatle” is in a Turkish prison.
Kurdish forces captured Kotey and Elsheikh, who have dened taking part in the executions. They told The Washington Post in a prison interview last year that their role was to carry out ransom negotiations.
If the two are brought to the United States for trial, they could be charged as conspirators in hostage-taking resulting in death — a charge that carries a possible death sentence, according to the Post.
President Donald Trump told reporters Wednesday the United States has moved what he calls some of the “most dangerous” IS prisoners from Kurdish custody to “different locations where it’s secure.”
But some critics of Trump’s decision to pull U.S. forces out of northern Syria, which has led to a Turkish offensive against the U.S.-allied Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), could allow thousands of imprisoned IS fighters to flee
“This is like a victory for the ISIS fighters. I think it’s just appalling,” James Foley’s mother, Diane, said, using an acronym for the militant group. “It’s an abdication of our responsibility to ensure safety for our own citizens and allies.”
Trump said the U.S. has tried but failed to convince such European countries as Britain, France and Germany to take back their citizens who joined IS as foreign fighters and have since been captured.