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British-born suspected Islamic State militants plead not guilty

British-born suspected Islamic State militants plead not guilty
Relatives of slain journalist James Foley are seen during a memorial service at the Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church in Rochester, N.H., on August 24, 2014. Foley was abducted and killed by the Islamic State terror group in Syria. File Photo by Katherine Taylor/EPA

Oct. 9 (UPI) -- Two British-born accused of killing four American hostages as members of the Islamic State pleaded not guilty Friday in U.S. federal court.

El Shafee Elsheikh, 32, and Alexanda Amon Kotey, 35, each pleaded not guilty to several charges, including hostage taking resulting in death and conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists. They appeared in the Alexandria, Va., court hearing by video.

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They're accused of being involved in the deaths of Americans James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller.

U.S. District Court Judge TS Ellis set Elsheikh and Kotey's next hearings for Jan. 15.

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The two men were indicted and flown to the United States on Wednesday to make their initial court appearances. The indictment says Kotey, Elsheikh, and operatives Mohammed Emwazi and Aine Davis participated in the abductions of American and European hostages in Syria between 2012 and 2015.

Kotey and Elsheikh, who were both caught by Kurdish forces in Syria, said they extracted information from their captives to use in ransom negotiations for Foley and the other three American hostages.

They have denied involvement in their deaths, however.

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Prosecutors said Kotey, Elsheikh and Emwazi supervised hostages and were responsible for transferring them among detention facilities and managing a prolonged regimen of physical and psychological violence.

"These charges are the product of many years of hard work in pursuit of justice for our citizens slain by [the Islamic State]," U.S. Attorney General William Barr said in a statement. "Although we cannot bring them back, we can and will seek justice for them, their families, and for all Americans."

Kotey and Elsheikh were known to their captives as "the Beatles" because of their British accents. Emwazi, known as "Jihadi John," was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2015 and Davis is imprisoned in Turkey.

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