The Trump administration is said to be considering sending two British Isis fighters who were part of a group dubbed “the Beatles” to Guantanamo Bay. Hundreds of others could be sent to a jail in Iraq.
While Barack Obama strove during his time in office to close the military jail located at the US naval base at Guantanamo, Donald Trump signalled during the 2016 election campaign he wanted make use of it to imprison “bad dudes”. Earlier this year, he signed an order to keep open the prison, which has been attacked by human rights activists and those who believe terror suspects are more effectively tried by the federal courts.
A report by NBC said the administration is considering sending as many as 600 captured suspected Isis fighters to a jail in Iraq. A number of high-profile suspects, among them British citizens Alexandar Amon Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh who are accused of being involved in the killing of a humber of western hostages including James Foley and Steven Sotloff, to Guantanamo.
In January, in his State of the Union address, the president announced he had signed an executive order to keep open the prison, located in Cuba. At the height of George W Bush’s so-called war on terror the camp had up to 800 inmates, but today houses 41.
NBC said the plan had run into some opposition on Capitol Hill. Democratic senator Jeanne Shaheen said she feared sending the high profile suspects to Guantanamo could potentially turn them into martyrs. A spokesperson for the senator told the network she had advocated for the Isis killers of Mr Foley “to be tried in federal courts in accordance with the wishes of the Foley family”.
Mr Kotey and Mr Elsheikh, who earned their nicknames because of their British accents, were detained by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish-led militia, in January. They have been questioned by US special forces and are currently being held in northern Syria.
The two Londoners have sought to stop being sent to the US. In an interview with the BBC, Mr Elsheikh told the BBC: “What makes the British government want a British citizen to be tried in America? Like what's behind it?”
NBC said the hundreds of prisoners captured by the SDF, come from many countries and range from “foot soldiers plucked off the battlefield to the highest value detainees who were tracked and captured with help from the US military”.
As the numbers has grown, it has become clear the SDF does not have the resources to detain, prosecute or protect them all prisoners. The report said the prisoners could be sent to Iraqi prisons with Iraqi guards, but the US retaining the right to prosecute them if they could not be sent to their home countries.
For a number of years, the US has been trying to persuade the home nations of terror suspects captured in the battle against Isis to deal with their citizens.
Neither the Pentagon or the White House responded to enquiries on Thursday. However a State Department spokesperson told NBC: “We encourage all of our partners to take responsibility for their citizens, including prosecuting them for any crimes they've committed, and ensuring they cannot return to the battlefield.”
Cmdr Sarah Higgins, a Defence Department spokesperson who focuses on detainee policy, told the channel: “There is no one identified to transfer to Guantanamo at this time.”
The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office did not immediately respond to enquiries.
The Britons became notorious for their involvement in the execution of western prisoners, events that were videoed and posted on the internet.
The alleged ringleader, Mohammed Emwazi, who became known as “Jihadi John”, was killed in an air strike in 2015. A fourth man, Aine Davis, is currently serving a seven-year sentence in Turkey after being convicted on terrorism charges
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