Ru­ined cities, ru­ined lives

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Business -

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.

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