The US has said it wants Britain and other allies to try Islamic State jihadists captured on the battlefield, setting the two on a collision course over the fate of the two “Beatles”.
The United States is urging allied nations to help deal with the growing number of foreign fighters that are being held by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, saying the militants should be turned over to face justice in their home countries.
Jim Mattis, U.S. Defense Secretary , is expected to raise the issue during a meeting in Rome this week with other members of the coalition that is fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).
The SDF is currently holding hundreds of foreign fighters, including Alexanda Kotey, 34, and El Shafee Elsheikh from London and dual British-Canadian national Jack Letts.
The issue became more prominent in recent days, after the announcement that the SDF had captured two notorious British members of an Islamic State cell who were commonly dubbed the Beatles and were known for beheading hostages.
US officials have said putting the two in the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility is not an option. And British leaders have suggested they don’t want the two men returned to Britain.
“We’re working with the coalition on foreign fighter detainees, and generally expect these detainees to return to their country of origin for disposition,” said Kathryn Wheelbarger, the principal deputy assistant defense secretary for international security affairs.
“Defense ministers have the obligation and the opportunity to really explain to their other ministers or their other Cabinet officials just the importance to the mission, to the campaign, to make sure that there’s an answer to this problem.”
U.S. officials have interrogated the men, who were part of the IS cell that captured, tortured and beheaded more than two dozen hostages, including American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and American aid worker Peter Kassig.
Hundreds of foreign citizens fought alongside Isil as it took control of large parts of Syria, raising concerns that they will bring terrorism with them if they ever return home.
The legal issues are daunting. Most nations, including the US, would be unwilling to take back detainees unless they have the evidence to prosecute them, and that often is difficult to collect in such battlefield captures.‘Allahu Akbar’ sprayed on Swedish church sparks outrage