The U.S. military is moving to take several dozen ISIS fighters into custody from Kurdish prisons in northeast Syria, and already holds two British fighters involved in the murder of freelance journalist James Foley and other Western hostages of the terror group, according to U.S. officials.
The Justice Department seeks to bring the two men, El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey, to trial in Virginia.
The pair were part of a four-man cell of British fighters that included Foley’s alleged killer, Mohammed Emwazi, who became known as “Jihadi John” and who was later killed in a drone strike. The cell executed at least 27 prisoners.
Foley was captured by ISIS in Syria in 2012. He was beheaded in 2014 , purportedly by Emwazi, in a filmed execution that shocked the international community. Foley was the first American citizen killed by ISIS.
U.S. forces are currently scrambling to find places to hold other ISIS detainees currently in U.S. custody in Syria. The Trump administration had no plan for moving the detainees when it announced a withdrawal of U.S. troops from northeastern Syria in advance of Turkey’s planned invasion of the region.
Officials are looking into the possibility of sending the most dangerous fighters to the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, according to NBC. The U.S. has repeatedly pressed the home countries of foreign ISIS fighters to imprison them, a plea that nearly every country has refused.
President Trump announced on Monday that U.S. troops would withdraw from northeast Syria, in advance of a planned invasion of the area by Turkey. The Turkish government plans to set up a “safe zone” inside Syria to resettle Syrian refugees who fled their country’s civil war, as well as to fight Kurdish groups it considers terrorist organizations.
Officials are unsure of what will subsequently happen to the 12,000 ISIS fighters currently detained by Kurdish forces.