British national pleads guilty to role in terror beheadings

ALEXANDRIA, Va.: A British national admitted Thursday evening in a federal courtroom near the nation’s capital that he played a leadership role in an Islamic State scheme to torture, hold for ransom and eventually behead American hostages.

Alexanda Anon Kotey, 37, pleaded guilty to all eight counts against him at a plea hearing in U.S. District Court in Alexandria. The charges include hostage-taking resulting in death and providing material support to the Islamic State group from 2012 through 2015.

He admitted guilt in connection with the deaths of four American hostages — journalist James Foley, journalist Steven Sotloff and aid workers Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller — as well as European and Japanese nationals who also were held captive.

Kotey is one of four Islamic State members who were dubbed “the Beatles” by their captives because of their British accents. He and another man, El Shafee Elsheikh, were brought to the U.S. last year to face charges after the U.S. assured Britain that neither man would face the death penalty.

Elsheikh is still scheduled to go on trial in January. A third Beatle, Mohammed Emwazi, also known as “Jihadi John,” was killed in a 2015 drone strike. A fourth member is serving a prison sentence in Turkey. – AP