Two members of the notorious Islamic State kidnapping cell dubbed the “Beatles” pleaded not guilty in a US court on Friday to charges of conspiring to murder four American hostages.

El Shafee Elsheikh, 32, and Alexanda Kotey, 36, were flown to the US from Iraq on Wednesday to face trial for involvement in the murders of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and relief workers Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller.

Appearing from prison by videolink, they both pleaded not guilty during a hearing in US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia and waived their right to a speedy trial.

Judge TS Ellis described the case as “complex and unusual” and set the next hearing for January 15.

“Time is required in order to achieve the ends of justice in this case,” Ellis said.

Besides the deaths of the four Americans, Elsheikh and Kotey are also suspected of involvement in the killings of two Britons, Alan Henning and David Haines, and several other hostages including two Japanese nationals.

The two former British nationals had been in the custody of US forces in Iraq since October 2019 after being captured in January 2018 by Syrian Kurdish forces. 

Kotey and Elsheikh’s four-member IS cell was dubbed the “Beatles” by their captives due to their British accents.

They allegedly tortured and killed their victims, including by beheading, and the IS released videos of the murders for propaganda purposes.


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