The US has taken charge of two previously captured British IS fighters who were involved in the filmed beheadings of Western hostages. The prisoners were moved out of Syria ahead of a Turkish military assault.
The US moved two captured British "Islamic State" (IS) fighters — known for their role in the filmed beheadings of Western hostages — out of Syria to Iraq on Wednesday, US officials report.
The two men were part of a group of four IS fighters who became known internationally as "the Beatles”, a nickname coined by their surviving prisoners because of their British nationality.
The group beheaded British, American, and Japanese journalists and aid workers as well as a group of Syrian soldiers on camera in 2014 and 2015. The filmed executions circulated the globe as propaganda for IS.
The prisoners were moved ahead of Turkey's planned military offensive in northeastern Syria on Wednesday. The two fighters, El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey, were previously in the custody of their captors, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The SDF is a target of the Turkish offensive.
A chance for escape
US President Donald Trump said Wednesday that the US had taken custody of some IS prisoners so they did not escape during the invasion.
"We are taking some of the most dangerous Islamic State fighters out," he said in a statement at the White House.
Thousands of IS fighters are being held in detention centers run by the Kurds in Syria. There are fears that the prisoners could escape, should the Turkish military action force Kurdish soldiers from their posts.
The US and the SDF have worked together in the fight against IS in the region. Trump has been called a "traitor” for pulling US troops out earlier this week, clearing the way for Turkish troops.
Turkey views the Kurdish army as a terrorist organization. It aims to claim the territory in Syria and use it to resettle the Syrian refugees currently residing in Turkey.