Ruined cities, ruined lives
In 2014, a caliphate was declared in the Middle East. The Islamic State ( ISIS) and its self- proclaimed caliph, Abu Bakr alBaghdadi, took advantage of the chaos in Syria and Iraq to seize land the size of Britain.
The militia beheaded, crucified or burned prisoners alive; kept women as sex slaves; tortured civilians for smoking or shaving their beards; and killed thousands of Yazidis, a religious minority in Iraq. Thanks to the sale of guns and oil, ISIS allegedly earned upwards of $ 3 million per day, while attracting thousands of followers from around the world.
Two of these British- born followers, El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey, have been extradited to the United States to face charges in the kidnapping and torture of Americans.
Terrorists and their accomplices must be held accountable for their crimes. That these men will stand trial in an American court is a powerful message from the U. S. government that these horrific deeds have not been forgotten. The hard work of law enforcement and intelligence agencies have given the families of the victims a chance to know the truth about what happened to their loved ones.
The two men allegedly took part in the abuse of more than 20 hostages, including journalists Steven Sotloff and
James Foley, who was the first American citizen killed by ISIS; and American aid workers Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller. Mueller crossed the border into Syria before being kidnapped and, according to witnesses, repeatedly raped by al- Baghdadi.
Foley, Sotloff and Kassig were publicly executed in a horrific display of Islamic extremism, while the cause of Mueller’s death is still unclear. None of the victims’ bodies have been found or returned to their families.
Kotey and Elsheikh allegedly coordinated hostage negotiations, conditioning the release of Americans on the transfer of large sums of money from the U. S. government, and other concessions such as the release of Muslim prisoners. They will now stand trial in an American court and, if convicted, could spend the rest of their lives in prison.
The caliphate was eventually smashed, thanks in large part to American air power; and al- Baghdadi blew himself up in a tunnel in Syria last October, killing three of his children. But in his terrible interpretation of the Quran, the ISIS leader, along with his followers, left behind ruined cities and ruined lives, including many grieving American families who deserve to know the facts.