British journalist kidnapped by ISIS pleaded with West to pay ransom

Missing British journalist kidnapped by the ISIS Beatles pleaded with the West to pay $100million ransom in smuggled final letter to secure release of him and five other hostages

  • John Cantlie was kidnapped in Syria and held hostage by the Beatles ISIS cell
  • He wrote letter pleading with western governments to pay ransom for prisoners
  • It was smuggled out by an Italian who was released and delivered to London
  • The letter was released following the conviction of Beatles member l Shafee Elsheikh, who was found guilty in a US court on Thursday
  • Cantlie is the only prisoner held captive by the Beatles whose fate is unknown 

A British photojournalist who was captured by the Islamic State pleaded with western governments to pay a $100 million ransom for him and five other hostages.

John Cantlie told his loved ones in a letter smuggled out of Syria that he feared being murdered by the so-called ISIS Beatles gang if the money was not delivered.

He wrote that the US and British governments were ‘the most hated’ by the terrorist group, and that was why the requested ransom was so large.

The letter from Cantlie, who is the only prisoner held captive by the Beatles whose fate is still unknown, was released following the conviction of l Shafee Elsheikh in the United States on Thursday.

In being convicted, he became the last member of the four-man gang to be brought to justice, after the other three were either also convicted or killed. 

Cantlie’s handwritten note was secretly delivered to his girlfriend in London, and was released as part of a large cache of documents relating to Elsheikh’s trial which painted a clearer picture of the conditions suffered by the Beatles’ prisoners.

According to The Times, it had been smuggled out of Syria by Italian aid worker Federico Motka, who was freed by the notorious gang in 2014, just weeks before the Beatles began beheading their hostages on camera.

British photojournalist John Cantlie (pictured right) told his loved ones in a letter smuggled out of Syria that he feared being murdered by the so-called Isis Beatles gang if the money was not delivered. He is the only prisoner held captive by the Beatles whose fate is still unknown 

According to The Times , the handwritten note (pictured) was smuggled out of Syria by Italian aid worker Federico Motka, who was freed by the notorious gang in 2014, just weeks before the Beatles began beheading their hostages on camera

Unlike two other British hostages – aid workers Alan Henning and David Haines – Mr Cantlie was not murdered by Mohammed Emwazi (who became known as Jihadi John) on camera.

The letter reads: ‘For the six British and American prisoners the group are demanding a total of £100 million. This includes a 7th prisoner, an American female called Kayla Mueller, who will be included in the package of $100 million if 5 million is not paid for her within one month or [name] is not released from American prison.

‘The British and American governments are the most hated by this group and therefore they are demanding the most for us. The amount is extremely high but it is the only way the [prisoners] will ever be released.

‘In the money is now found, we will remain prisoners here until we die, either by natural causes or

‘Didier François known all about the situation lease with him on this matter. We are all so sorry to put you in this very difficult situation. We love all our families and pray you are all holding up in this situation.’

Kayla Mueller – an American aid worker – was eventually murdered by the Beatles, while Didier François, a French journalist, was released in 2014.

The last public sighting of Mr Cantlie – who converted to Islam during his captivity – was in a 2016 video but a Kurdish official said in 2019 that he was still believed to be in Syria. He has never been found.

Mr Cantlie’s skills as a journalist were exploited by ISIS in an attempt to lend credibility to propaganda films.  

Pictured: An image shared during the trial shows shackles on the floor of a prison cell

In a video which emerged in March 2016, a thin-looking Cantlie was seen speaking about the bombing of Mosul University in Iraq. 

In 2014 he appeared in another video wearing an orange prisoner jumpsuit and revealing how prisoners were waterboarded for trying to escape. 

He also read out purported emails between IS and the families of American captives who complained about Washington’s refusal to negotiate their release.  

Mr Cantlie had worked for several publications, including The Sunday Times, The Sun and The Sunday Telegraph. 

He was captured in July 2012 but rescued by members of the Free Syrian Army, only to be kidnapped again later that year.  

A freed ISIS prisoner said he suffered ‘weeks and weeks’ of torture after he tried to escape his terrorist prisoners. 

Fellow captive Javier Espinosa, a Spanish journalist, said Mr Foley had escaped from a room but waited for Mr Cantlie rather than run for freedom himself.

On Thursday, Elsheikh for his role in an Islamic State group hostage-taking scheme that took roughly two dozen Westerners captive a decade ago, resulting in the deaths of four Americans, three of whom were beheaded.

El Shafee Elsheikh (pictured) on Thursday became the last remaining member of the twisted Islamic State ‘Beatles’ group to be brought to justice as he was finally jailed – watched by the families of those he helped murder

In convicting the British national, the jury concluded that he was one of the notorious ‘Beatles,’ Islamic State captors nicknamed for their accents and known for their cruelty – torturing and beating prisoners, forcing them to fight each other until they collapsed and even making them sing cruel song parodies. 

Surviving hostages testified that the Beatles delighted themselves rewriting ‘Hotel California’ as ‘Hotel Osama’ and making them sing the refrain ‘You will never leave.’

The guilty finding came even though none of the surviving hostages could identify Elsheikh as one of their captors. Although the Beatles had distinctive accents, they always took great care to hide their faces behind masks and ordered hostages to avoid eye contact or risk a beating.

Prosecutors suggested in opening statements that Elsheikh was the Beatle nicknamed ‘Ringo’ but only had to prove that Elshiekh was one of the Beatles because testimony showed that all three were major players in the scheme.

Elsheikh, who was captured by the Kurdish-led Syrian defense Forces in 2018, eventually confessed his role in the scheme to interrogators as well as media interviewers, acknowledging that he helped collect email addresses and provided proof of life to the hostages’ families as part of ransom negotiations.

But testimony showed that he and the other Beatles were far more than paper pushers. The surviving hostages, all of whom were European – the American and British hostages were all killed – testified that they dreaded the Beatles’ appearance at the various prisons to which they constantly shuttled and relocated.

Surviving witness Federico Motka recounted a time in the summer of 2013 when he and cellmate David Haines were put in a room with American hostage James Foley and British hostage John Cantlie for what they called a ‘Royal Rumble.’ The losers were told they’d be waterboarded. Weak from hunger, two of the four passed out during the hourlong battle.

Elsheikh, 33 (pictured in a court room sketch on April 1) and the other three ‘ISIS Beatles’ – so-called because they were all from the UK – are said to have captured 26 hostages between 2012 and 2015 in Syria

Then-15-year-old El Shafee Elsheikh, right, seen with his mother and younger brother Mahmoud, who was reportedly killed after also travelling to Syria

The jury deliberated for four hours before finding Elsheikh guilty on all counts. Elsheikh stood motionless and gave no visible reaction as the verdict was read. He now faces up to a life sentence in prison.

Several victims’ family members, who were present throughout throughout the three-week trial, fought back tears as the guilty counts were read.

‘Praise God! I’m so thankful,’ said Diane Foley, the mother of James Foley, after the verdicts came in. ‘I’m so proud of the American justice system. El Shafee Elsheikh was treated with a great deal of mercy. He had four attorneys. … Hopefully we were able to turn this into justice, not revenge.’

She contrasted what she said was the stellar work of the prosecution with what she said was the inaction of government to bring Foley and the other Americans home when they were hostages.

‘When we really needed to bring the full force of the government to bear to bring them home, that failed,’ she said. ‘They were abandoned.’

Victims: Slain American James Foley covering the civil war in Aleppo, Syria in 2012 and US aid worker Peter Kassig – otherwise known as Abdul-Rahman Kassig – in Syria

Victims: Left: US freelance journalist Steven Sotloff. Right: US aide worker Kayla Mueller, 26. Both were killed in Syria by ISIS

Alexanda Amon Kotey, left, and El Shafee Elsheikh, who were among four British jihadis who made up a brutal Islamic State cell dubbed ‘The Beatles,’ speak during an interview with The Associated Press at a security center in Kobani, Syria, Friday, March 30, 2018

She said she hopes the case brings attention to the more than 60 Americans who are being held hostage or wrongly detained around the world.

The convictions on all eight counts in U.S. District Court in Alexandria revolved around the deaths of four American hostages: Foley, Steven Sotloff, Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller. All but Mueller were executed in videotaped beheadings circulated online. Mueller was forced into slavery and raped multiple times by Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi before she was killed.

They were among 26 hostages taken captive between 2012 and 2015, when the Islamic State group controlled large swaths of Iraq and Syria.

Defense lawyers acknowledged that Elsheikh joined the Islamic State group but said prosecutors failed to prove he was a Beatle. They cited a lack of clarity about which Beatle was which, and back in the trial’s opening statement cited the confusion about whether there were three or four Beatles.

Prosecutors said there were three – Elsheikh and his friends Alexanda Kotey and Mohammed Emwazi, who all knew each other in England before joining the Islamic State. Emwazi, who as known as ‘Jihadi John’ and carried out the executions, was later killed in a drone strike. 

Kotey and Elsheikh were captured together in 2018 and brought to Virginia in 2020 to face trial after the U.S. promised not to seek the death penalty.

Kotey pleaded guilty last year in a plea bargain that calls for a life sentence but leaves open the possibility that he could serve out his sentence in the United Kingdom after 15 years in the U.S.

Kotey will be formally sentenced April 29. Elsheikh will be sentenced Aug. 12. But on Thursday the judge in the two cases, T.S. Ellis III, ordered that Elsheikh appear at Kotey’s hearing as well so that he will hear victim impact testimony that will presented ahead of Kotey’s sentencing. 

The savage ISIS Beatles, including Jihadi John ringleader who shared beheading videos online and killed innocent British aid workers 

Jihadi John

Mohammed Emwazi – Jihadi John

Emwazi was one of the most prominent members of the so-called ISIS Beatles and was regularly seen carrying out executions in their horrific beheading videos.

He took part in the barbaric beheadings of British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning and US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and US humanitarian worker Peter Kassig.

The terrorist, who was born in Kuwait and grew up in Queen’s Park, West London, was charged with 27 counts of murder and five counts of hostage taking in November 2014.

He was killed in a Hellfire missile drone strike in Syria in 2015. 

Jihadi Paul

Aine Lesley Davis – Paul

Davis was born Aine Leslie Junior Davis in 1984 to Fay Rodriquez, and is believed to have spent the early years of his childhood in Hammersmith, London, where his mother lived. 

He was one of 13 children his father had by four different women.

The former tube driver, who has drug-dealing and firearms convictions to his name, converted to Islam while in prison.

In 2014 his wife, Amal el-Wahabi, was convicted of funding terrorism after she persuaded a friend to try and smuggle £16,000 ($21,000) in cash in her underwear to him.

Davis was captured by Turkish security officials in 2015 and was later found guilty of being a senior member of a terrorist organization and was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison.

Alexanda Kotey

Alexanda Kotey – George 

Kotey, 38, was born to a Ghanaian father and a Greek Cypriot mother and grew up in Shepherd’s Bush, London.

Before his radicalization, he is thought to have worked as a drug dealer before converting to Islam in his early 20s.

In 2012, he left for Syria where the US claims he was involved in beheadings and known for administering ‘exceptionally cruel torture methods’, including electronic shocks.

He is also accused of acting as an ISIS recruiter who convinced a number of other British extremists to join the terror group.

Kotey was captured in Syria while trying to escape to Turkey in 2018 and was held in a US military center in Iraq.

The British Government wanted him tried in the US, where officials believe there is a more realistic chance of prosecution than in the UK. 

He was extradited last year and was charged with a number of terror offenses. He pleaded guilty in September 2021 and was sentnced to life in prison, 15 years of which would be spent in the United States and then he would be transferred to the United Kingdom.

El Shafee Elsheikh

El Shafee Elsheikh – Ringo  

Born in Sudan, Elsheikh, 33, grew up in West London and is the final member of the four British terrorists who fled to join ISIS.

He has been linked to the killings of a number of hostages after heading to Syria to join the extremist group.

He was captured along with Kotey when they tried to flee to Turkey in 2018 and has since been transported to the US where he now faces charges relating to terrorism and beheading Western hostages.

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