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British national pleads guilty to role in terror beheadings

Alexanda Anon Kotey is one of four Islamic State members who were dubbed “the Beatles” by their captives because of their British accents.

AP | 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.

The plea deal sets a mandatory minimum sentence of life without parole. After 15 years, though, he would be eligible to be transferred to the United Kingdom to face any possible charges there.

In the plea deal , he admits that life is an appropriate sentence in the United Kingdom as well. If he were to receive a sentence of less than life there, the deal requires that he serve the rest of his life sentence, either in the United Kingdom if that country will do so, or be transferred back to the U.S. to serve the life term.

The deal also requires him to cooperate with authorities and answer questions about his time in the Islamic State group. He would not, though, be required to testify at Elsheikh’s trial.

Kotey gave a somewhat detailed account of his time in Islamic State when U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis asked him to explain in his own words what he had done.

He said he traveled to Syria to “engage in a military fight against the Syrian forces of Bashar Assad” and that he eventually pledged allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

“I accept I will be perceived as a radical who holds extremist views,” he said.