US jury convicts British-American hostage-taker

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US jury convicts British-American hostage-taker

A US jury has convicted a former British citizen for his role in an Islamic State hostage-taking plot that led to the beheading of American journalists and aid workers.

After a six-week trial and four hours of deliberations, a federal jury in Alexandria, Virginia found El Shafee Elsheikh guilty of lethal hostage-taking and conspiracy to commit murder.

In guilty of Elsheikh on Thursday, the jury concluded that he was part of an Islamic State terrorist cell, nicknamed 'The Beatles' for British accents, that beheaded American hostages in Iraq and Syria.

Several former hostages, released by the notorious group after protracted negotiations, testified during the trial about the torture they endured. The family members of the deceased victims also testified.

The charges against Elsheikh, whose British citizenship has been withdrawn in 2018, carry a potential death sentence, but US officials have advised that they will not seek the death penalty.

Elsheikh, who was born in Sudan and raised in London, was accused of conspiring to kill four American hostages, including James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller.

Mr Foley and Mr Sotloff, both journalists, and Mr Kassig, an aid worker, were killed in videotaped beheadings.

Ms Mueller was repeatedly raped by the group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, before her death in Syria, US officials said.

Another of the cell's members, Alexanda Kotey, was held by the US military in Iraq before being flown to the US to face trial.

In September of last year, Kotey pleaded guilty to the murders of Foley, Sotloff, Mueller and Kassig.

During opening arguments in the US trial, Elsheikh's lawyer, Ed MacMahon, called him a simple ISIS fighter and tried to cast doubt on whether he was one of the Beatles.

He said that the captors wore masks and had similar accents, making it hard for hostages to identify them.

None of that is in dispute, Mr MacMahon said.