Oct. 10 (UPI) -- Two accused British-born terrorist fighters, known in some circles as the "Islamic State Beatles," have been captured in Syria and removed by U.S. authorities.
The accused, El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey, are suspected of operating a four-man Islamic State cell in Syria that sought to abduct and kill Westerners. The London natives were taken to a U.S.-controlled military location, President Donald Trump said in a tweet.
The pair were removed from Syria, the president added, in case new fighting between Turkish and Kurdish forces gets out of hand. Turkey began an offensive Wednesday targeting Kurdish forces in northern Syria -- military action for which Trump has been heavily criticized for allowing.
"In case the Kurds or Turkey lose control, the United States has already taken the two [IS] militants tied to beheadings in Syria, known as the [Beatles], out of that country and into a secure location controlled by the U.S.," Trump tweeted early Thursday. "They are the worst of the worst."
The Justice Department said it will try Elsheikh and Kotey in federal court in Virginia. Their Syria cell drew the nickname "Islamic State Beatles" because it included four British-born members, the same number in the legendary rock band that emerged from Liverpool in the early 1960s.
The cell formerly included slain militant Mohammed Emwazi, known as "Jihadi John," who beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley in 2014.
"We now face the very real prospect of 10,000 [Islamic State] prisoners rejoining the battlefield," New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said in a statement rebuking Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops in Syria. "These terrorists would join the thousands that are already on the battlefield who are currently conducting operations and planning for prison breaks."
Elsheikh and Kotey were among more than three dozen "high value" formerly imprisoned Islamic State fighters who have been captured by American troops recently, U.S. officials said.
"Turkey will ignore criticisms about Operation Peace Spring which we launched against terrorist elements while more than 10 foreign actors roam freely in Syria," Erdogan said Thursday. "I urge Saudi Arabia to look in the mirror and answer for what it has done to Yemen.
"And Egypt, you can't say a thing. You allowed democratically-elected [Mohamed] Morsi to die suffering in a courtroom. That's the sort of killer you are," he continued, referring to Morsi, who died in an Egyptian court in June while on trial.
Erdogan said Turkey has killed 16,000 terrorists over the past four years, 8,500 of them abroad.