ISIS Militants Charged With Deaths Of Americans In Syria

Two militant fighters for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a foreign terrorist organization, are expected to arrive in the United States today in FBI custody on charges related to their participation in a brutal hostage-taking scheme that resulted in the deaths of four American citizens, as well as the deaths of British and Japanese nationals, in Syria.


Two ‘Beatles’ charged with hostage-taking of American citizens in Syria and other terrorism offenses that resulted in the deaths of James Wright Foley, Steven Joel Sotloff, Peter Edward Kassig, and Kayla Jean Mueller

Two militant fighters for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a foreign terrorist organization, are expected to arrive in the United States today in FBI custody on charges related to their participation in a brutal hostage-taking scheme that resulted in the deaths of four American citizens, as well as the deaths of British and Japanese nationals, in Syria.

Former British citizens Alexanda Amon Kotey, 36, and El Shafee Elsheikh, 32, are expected to make their initial appearances in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia this afternoon.

“These charges are the product of many years of hard work in pursuit of justice for our citizens slain by ISIS.  Although we cannot bring them back, we can and will seek justice for them, their families, and for all Americans,” said Attorney General William P. Barr. “Our message to other terrorists around the world is this — if you harm Americans, you will face American arms on the battlefield or American law in our courtrooms. Either way, you will be pursued to the ends of the earth until justice is done.”

“Today, we remember the victims, Jim Foley, Steven Sotloff, Peter Kassig, and Kayla Mueller, and their families who are forever affected by these senseless acts of violence,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “These families have suffered with the painful loss of their loved ones at the hands of brutal killers; today’s charges demonstrate the FBI’s dedication and commitment to giving them the justice they deserve.  We, along with our partners in the U.S. Government, remain steadfast in our duty to bring to justice those who have harmed our citizens — no matter where they are, and no matter how long it takes. I’m grateful to the men and women of the FBI, the victims’ families, and our domestic and international partners, for their tireless efforts to bring us to where we stand today with the prosecution of these men on U.S. soil.”

According to allegations in the indictment, from 2012 to 2015, Kotey, Elsheikh, Mohamed Emwazi (deceased), and a fourth British citizen (CC-1) currently incarcerated in Turkey, were ISIS fighters and participated in the abduction of American and European hostages in Syria. The men also allegedly engaged in a prolonged pattern of physical and psychological violence against the hostages, including against American citizens James Wright Foley, Kayla Jean Mueller, Steven Joel Sotloff, and Peter Edward Kassig. Due to their English accents and their history together in the United Kingdom, the four men were often referred to by hostages as “The Beatles”.

From August 2014 through October 2014, ISIS released videos depicting Emwazi’s barbaric beheadings of Foley, Sotloff, and British citizens David Haines and Alan Henning. In November 2014, ISIS released a video depicting the decapitated head of Kassig. In January 2015, ISIS released videos with images of two dead Japanese citizens.

“Kotey and Elsheikh are alleged to have committed horrific crimes in support of ISIS, including hostage taking resulting in the deaths of four American citizens,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Their alleged acts have shattered the lives of four American families. What each these families have sought more than anything else is for these defendants to have their day in court. Well, that day has come. While we cannot return their loved ones or undo the pain that these families face each day, we can do everything possible to ensure that the defendants are held accountable for their alleged savage actions.”

According to allegations in the indictment, Kotey, Elsheikh, and Emwazi, worked closely with Abu Muhammed al-Adnani, a former leading ISIS commander and chief media spokesperson. Until he was killed in a United States military airstrike in August 2016, Adnani reported directly to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the former self-proclaimed leader of ISIS. Baghdadi was killed during a United States military operation in Syria in October 2019.

“The indictments of Alexanda Kotey and Elshafee Elsheikh are the result of more than eight years of tireless work by the FBI Washington Field Office and personnel across the U.S. Government and the international law enforcement community,” said Acting Assistant Director in Charge James A. Dawson, FBI Washington Field Office. “These individuals allegedly conducted a litany of heinous and barbaric crimes as part of their duties as members of ISIS and for too long, the families of their victims have suffered while awaiting the day they would finally see justice for their loved ones. The men and women of the FBI remain dedicated to bringing the full force of the US justice system upon those who harm our citizens in furtherance of terrorism.”

Kotey, Elsheikh, and Emwazi met repeatedly with Adnani concerning the hostage-taking scheme and other matters. Between November 2012 and February 2015, Kotey, Elsheikh, Emwazi, and other ISIS fighters committed acts inflicting pain, suffering, cruelty and mistreatment on American, British, and other hostages in captivity.   

Throughout the captivity of the American hostages and others, Kotey, Elsheikh, and Emwazi allegedly supervised detention facilities holding hostages and were responsible for transferring hostages between detention facilities, in addition to engaging in a prolonged pattern of physical and psychological violence against hostages. From November 2013 to February 2015, Kotey and Elsheikh allegedly coordinated the Western-hostage ransom negotiations conducted by email. Kotey and Elsheikh knew and understood that the release of American and other hostages was conditioned on the transfer of large sums of money or concessions from the United States government, such as the release of Muslim prisoners.

According to allegations in the indictment, on or about April 25, 2014, Kotey, Elsheikh, and Emwazi forcibly moved the Italian, Danish, and German citizens, along with two other European humanitarian aid workers, to an isolated area approximately two miles from their prison to witness the execution of a Syrian prisoner. Kotey and Elsheikh knew and understood this execution was part of the hostage negotiation process. Emwazi executed the Syrian prisoner by shooting him in the back of the head and then numerous times in the torso as he fell into a grave. Kotey instructed the hostages to kneel at the side of the grave and witness the execution while holding handmade signs pleading for their release. Elsheikh videotaped the execution of the Syrian hostage, and after the execution the three men returned the European hostages to the prison with Elsheikh telling one hostage, “You’re next, [First name].”

The indictment alleges that ISIS fighters also forcibly seized the following additional individuals: Two United Kingdom citizens, an Italian citizen, a Danish citizen, a German citizen, four French citizens, three Spanish citizens, a New Zealand citizen, and a Russian citizen.

Kotey and Elsheikh were captured together in January 2018 by the Syrian Democratic Forces as they attempted to escape Syria for Turkey. Emwazi was killed in a United States military airstrike conducted in November 2015 in Syria.      

The American Victims

James Wright Foley – In November 2012, Kotey, Elsheikh, Emwazi, and other ISIS fighters forcibly seized and detained Foley, a citizen of both the United States and the United Kingdom. On or about Aug. 19, 2014, ISIS’s media center released a video depicting Emwazi beheading Foley.

Kayla Jean Mueller – In August 2013, ISIS fighters forcibly seized and detained Mueller in Syria. Beginning in or about October 2014, Baghdadi sexually abused Mueller against her will while she was held captive in Syria. On or about Feb. 7, 2015, Mueller’s family received an email from ISIS fighters confirming Mueller’s death in Syria.

Steven Joel Sotloff – In August 2013, ISIS fighters forcibly seized and detained Sotloff in Syria. On or about Sept. 2, 2014, ISIS’s media center released a video depicting Emwazi beheading Sotloff.

Peter Edward Kassig – In October 2013, ISIS fighters forcibly seized and detained Kassig in Syria. On or about Nov. 16, 2014, ISIS’s media center released a video depicting the decapitated head of Kassig.

Kotey and Elsheikh are each charged with conspiracy to commit hostage taking resulting in death; four counts of hostage taking resulting in death; conspiracy to murder United States citizens outside of the United States; conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists — hostage taking and murder — resulting in death; and conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization resulting in death. If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.

The Department of Justice expresses its profound appreciation to the United Kingdom government as well as the Syrian Democratic Forces for their dedicated commitment to assist the United States in seeking justice for all the victims of the alleged crimes.  

This case is being investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office. The Justice Department’s National Security Division and Office of International Affairs provided valuable assistance.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Dennis M. Fitzpatrick, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Raj Parekh, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys John T. Gibbs and Aidan Taft Grano are handling the prosecution, with the assistance of Trial Attorney Alicia Cook of the National Security Division‘s Counterterrorism Section (CTS) and CTS Deputy Chief Bridget Behling.

An indictment is merely an accusation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Blogs to Follow:

Justice.gov (October 2020)  ISIS Militants Charged With Deaths Of Americans In Syria

Multiple Suspects wanted for Vandalization of Federal Property

The FBI Washington Field Office’s Violent Crimes Task Force, in conjunction with the United States Park Police, is interested in identifying several individuals who are responsible for vandalizing federal property at Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C.


The FBI Washington Field Office’s Violent Crimes Task Force, in conjunction with the United States Park Police, is interested in identifying several individuals who are responsible for vandalizing federal property at Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C.

On June 22, 2020, at approximately 7:15 p.m., a group of individuals vandalized the statue of President Andrew Jackson at Lafayette Square, located at Pennsylvania Ave NW and 16th Street NW.

The FBI and the United States Park Police are attempting to identify the individuals responsible for the violation of Destruction of Government Property.

Damage or attempted damage exceeding $1,000 to federal property is a felony offense.

If you have any information concerning these individuals or this incident, please contact the FBI’s Washington Field Office at (202) 278-2000.

You may also contact your local FBI office, the nearest American Embassy or Consulate, or you can submit a tip online at tips.fbi.gov.

Blogs to Follow:

FBI.gov (June 2020) VANDALIZATION OF FEDERAL PROPERTY – WASHINGTON, D.C.

FBI remembers Special Agent Robert R. Hardesty

Today, the FBI remembers Special Agent Robert R. Hardesty (1965 – 2005), who died on June 2, 2005, as a result of an accident during SWAT training at the FBI Academy on May 25, 2005 in Quantico, Virginia.


Today, the FBI remembers Special Agent Robert R. Hardesty (1965 – 2005), who died on June 2, 2005, as a result of an accident during SWAT training at the FBI Academy on May 25, 2005 in Quantico, Virginia.

Special Agent Hardesty, 40, was assigned to the Springfield FBI Office at the time of his death and was a member of that office’s SWAT team.

Robert S. Mueller, III, Director Federal Bureau of Investigation, spoke at the funeral service for Robert R. Hardesty, of Portage, Indiana on June 08, 2005.

“We have come together today to honor Rob Hardesty: the Rob Hardesty you have known over many years and whom I have come to know over the past two weeks.

I have come to know Rob Hardesty by learning about his life–for his is a life story of service. Service to his family. Service to the Porter County Sheriff’s Office. Service to the FBI. Service to his country. Service to his Lord.

I also came to know Rob Hardesty personally; but only for a few moments. It was a day or so after the accident. Rob was in bed and unable to move. I told him he had one of the best Marine Corps haircuts I had seen in a while. And his entire face lit up. He smiled. And that smile gave me a glimpse of his vitality, his passion. I learned from that smile what all of you know so well.

I also came to understand Rob through his family, who I have come to know and respect over the last two weeks. You can learn a great deal about a person from knowing his family, and particularly the person he chooses to marry. Hardened, grizzled veterans of the FBI–veterans of HRT, SWAT–stand in awe of Toni–stand in awe of her strength and the strength of Rob’s family.

In a very short time I came to know Rob Hardesty–know him as an FBI agent; know him as a husband and father; and know him as a servant.

We look up to persons such as Rob, whose life work is service. We hold them up as examples. They earn our deepest admiration and respect because of the actions they purposefully take…in the name of service.

They are the ones who say, yes, I am ready without knowing when. Who say, yes, I will go, without knowing where. Who say, yes, I do, without always knowing why.

It is the rare quality of those who go forward without looking back and without asking what price, who show us the true meaning of courage, of devotion, and of sacrifice. It is the legacy Rob leaves us that his was a life lived to the full measure of those ideals.

We thank God for holding Robert Hardesty in His hands and we ask Him to look after Rob with great care, for he was truly the very best of the best. Each of us will carry Rob in our hearts, until that time when we meet again and come to be close to him once more. May God bless you, and may God bless Rob Hardesty.”

Springfield Office Dedication in Honor of Robert R. Hardesty, Springfield, Illinois, December 15, 2005

Memorial Service Held Honoring Fallen Special Agents

Prior to joining the FBI three-and-a-half years earlier, he served in the Porter County, Indiana Sheriff’s Department. In his honor, the Springfield FBI Office now bears his name.

FBI.gov (June 2020) Special Agent Robert R. Hardesty died on June 2, 2005

Operation Lemon Aid Spy Case 43 Years Ago


43 years ago, Operation Lemon Aid Spy Case was one of the FBI’s most important counter-espionage cases of the 1970s.

“Hello, Ed,” the note began. “Please, read this letter very attentively. To-day, as I have already noticed we have a lot of work to do: 1) Receive your material. 2) Make our first payment to you.” (see the full letter below). 

“Ed” was actually Art Lindberg—a lieutenant commander in the Navy and a double agent recruited by the Naval Investigative Service and the FBI in the spring of 1977. At the time, we suspected the Soviets were using their U.N. office as a front for espionage—specifically, to spy on U.S. Navy operations in New York and New Jersey.

Lindberg’s modest income, impending retirement, and information access made him a perfect candidate to fool the Soviets into believing he would sell secrets for cash.

It worked.

The letter was one of many communications sent by the Soviets to Lindberg, often in stilted English, after they took the bait in August 1977 until the following spring when we arrested two Soviet officials.

At the outset, FBI Headquarters dubbed the spy case “Operation Lemon-Aid.” The name had no meaning, but as the case developed, it seemed to fit more and more.

Why? Because as we tracked the steady stream of phone calls and letters between Lindberg and the Soviets, we learned quite a bit about Soviet spy craft in the ‘70s.

The Soviets repeatedly passed messages and money to Lindberg in the most ordinary, everyday items: magnetic key holders placed in phone booths, cigarette packs, soda cans, orange juice cartons, even a rubber hose from an appliance.

Most of the pre-arranged “dead drop” sites where the secrets were supposed to be passed (it was actually declassified information) were along the busy New Jersey Turnpike.

We moved in on May 20, 1978 when we felt we had enough information to make the arrests. We decided to set a trap—we gave Lindberg five canisters with actual classified materials so the Soviets would be caught red-handed.

Hiding inside the trunk of Lindberg’s car were two FBI agents, with many other agents waiting at the drop site on a back road. Lindberg approached the site, stopped the car, and picked up a can labeled “Ann Page Bartlett Pears,” as instructed by the Soviets.

He grabbed the can, dropped off the canisters, and drove off. Soon after, we arrested two covert KGB officers—Valdik Enger and Rudolf Chernyayev.

A third Soviet at the scene, Vladimir Zinyakin, had diplomatic immunity and was later expelled from the country.

In the end, it was one of our most important counter-espionage cases of the decade. Enger and Chernyayev were the first Soviet officials to ever stand trial for espionage in the U.S.

Both were convicted and ultimately exchanged for five Soviet dissidents.

The cat-and-mouse game between FBI and KGB agents would continue, but “Operation Lemon-Aid” gave us insights that helped our operations for years to come.

FBI.gov (May 2020) Operation Lemon Aid Spy Case

Pakistani Doctor Charged With Attempting To Provide Material Support To ISIS


On Thursday, Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers and U.S. Attorney Erica H. MacDonald for the District of Minnesota announced a federal criminal complaint against Muhammad Masood, 28, charging him with attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.

Masood, who was arrested earlier today at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, made his initial appearance before Magistrate Judge David T. Schultz in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Masood was ordered to remain in custody pending a formal detention hearing, which is scheduled for Tuesday, March 24, 2020.

According to the allegations in the complaint, Masood, a licensed medical doctor in Pakistan,was formerly employed as a Research Coordinator at a medical clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, under an H-1B Visa.

Between January 2020 and March 2020, Masood made several statements to others, including pledging his allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) and its leader, and expressing his desire to travel to Syria to fight for ISIS.

Masood also expressed his desire to conduct “lone wolf” terrorist attacks in the United States. On Feb. 21, 2020, Masood purchased a plane ticket from Chicago, Illinois to Amman, Jordan, and from there planned to travel to Syria.

On March 16, 2020, Masood’s travel plans changed because Jordan closed its borders to incoming travel due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Masood made a new plan to fly from Minneapolis to Los Angeles to meet up with an individual who he believed would assist him with travel via cargo ship to deliver him to ISIS territory.

On March 19, 2020, Masood traveled from Rochester to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) to board a flight bound for Los Angeles, California. Upon arrival at MSP, Masood checked in for his flight and was subsequently arrested by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.

Defendant Information: MUHAMMAD MASOOD, 28, Rochester, Minn.

Charges: Attempt to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization (ISIS), 1 count

This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrew R. Winter and Timothy C. Rank, with assistance from Trial Attorney Katie Sweeten of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

Justice.gov (2020) Pakistani Doctor Charged With Attempting To Provide Material Support To ISIS