John Foley (R), father of James Foley, hugs a man during a memorial service for slain U.S. journalist James Foley at the Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church in Rochester, New Hampshire, on Aug. 24, 2014. On Thursday, the Justice Department said Alexanda Amon Kotey pleaded guilty for his involvement in Foley's death. File Photo by Katherine Taylor/EPA
Sept. 2 (UPI) -- A British-born militant fighter for the Islamic State pleaded guilty Thursday to charges stemming from his participation in the torture, hostage-taking and deaths of American and European nationals in Syria, prosecutors said.
Alexanda Amon Kotey, 37, pleaded guilty to an eight-count indictment in an Alexandria, Va., courtroom Thursday, the Justice Department said in a statement. He faces a minimum punishment of life without parole when he is sentenced on March 4.
"This guilty plea ensures that Kotey will spend the rest of his life in prison for the horrific crimes he has committed," Acting Assistant Attorney General Mark Lesko of the Justice Department's National Security Division said. "Although there remains much work to be done in this case, we hope today's events provide some measure of justice for Kotey's victims and their families as they continue to grieve the loss of their loved ones."
Kotey with El Shafee Elsheikh, 33, and others participated in the kidnapping and detention of foreign nationals in Syria for the purposes of negotiating ransoms for their release, according to the court documents. Prosecutors said the actions of Kotey and Elsheikh, who along Mohammed Emwazi and another unnamed British-born IS fighter became known to their captives as "the Beatles" due to their accents, resulted in the deaths of four Americans as well as British and Japanese nationals.
Specifically, they were charged with the deaths of Americans James Wright Foley, Kayla Jean Mueller, Steven Joel Sotloff and Peter Edward Kassig.
Prosecutors accused them of engaging in "a prolonged pattern of physical and psychological violence" against their hostages in order to, in part, compel their families and the U.S. government to pay ransoms for their release.
Some of the tactics employed included forcing their captives to watch the murder of other hostages, according to the court documents.
Foley Sotloff and British citizens David Haines were beheaded and videos of their deaths were released by IS between August and October 2014. In November that same year the video of Kassig being beheaded was released and in January 2015 IS released videos depicting the decapitated bodies of two Japanese citizens Haruna Ykawa and Kenji Goto. Then in February of the next year, Mueller's family received an email from IS confirming her death.
"Years ago, Alexanda Kotey's actions played out on the world stage, and those brutal crimes against Americans James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller, as well as two British and two Japanese hostages are forever burned into the eyes of the American people," Assistant Director Steven D'Antuono of the FBI's Washington Field Office said. "This guilty plea will not lessen the suffering of those affected by his cruelty, but I hope it reminds the world of the FBI's unwavering dedication to finding and prosecuting all individuals who inflict harm on U.S. citizens, no matter their location."
Kotey and Elsheik were captured Jan. 4, 2018, by the Syrian Democratic Forces while attempting to escape Syria for Turkey. Emwazi was killed Nov. 12, 2015, in a U.S. military airstrike.
After the court hearing, Diane Foley, the mother of James Foley, thanked those responsible for bringing Kotey to justice.
"This accountability is essential ... if our country wishes to ever deter hostage taking," she said, NBC News reported. "I would like to use this moment to beseech our government to prioritize the return of all U.S. nationals kidnapped or wrongfully detained abroad."