A member of the terrorist cell believed to be involved in the murder of Perth aid worker David Haines has pleaded guilty to conspiring to kill four US hostages.
British-born Alexanda Kotey was part of the IS group dubbed “The Beatles” who have been involved in kidnappings across Syria and Iraq.
The 36-year-old and co-accused El Shafee Elsheikh tendered pleas of not guilty when they appeared in an American court in October.
Now Kotey, who was born in London, has appeared before a hearing in Alexandria, Virginia, and admitted criminal charges of lethal hostage taking and conspiracy to support terrorists, Reuters reports.
Life in prison
He will not face the death penalty, but is expected to serve the rest of his days behind bars. It is likely he will be transferred to a UK prison after serving 15 years in America.
Kotey admitted all eight charges against him.
They were four counts of hostage taking resulting in death, conspiracy to commit hostage taking resulting in death, conspiracy to murder United States citizens outside of the United States, conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists – hostage taking and murder – resulting in death and conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organisation resulting in death.
Kotey was nicknamed Ringo as part of the four-man terrorist group, which became known as The Beatles because of their British accents.
The group is suspected of being involved in the killing of Mr Haines, a former aircraft engineer from Scone.
The 44-year-old was beheaded in Syria in 2014, after being held prisoner for 18 months.
British taxi driver Alan Henning was also allegedly murdered by the cell.
There has been no word on whether Elsheikh has reached a deal with authorities.
Kotey has agreed to fully co-operate with authorities as part of the plea agreement.
Kotey addressed the court to outline his involvement in the atrocities. He was repeatedly interrupted by District Judge TS Ellis who told him his statement was more suitable for the sentencing hearing.
In a prepared summary, he said he left the UK for Syria in August 2012 alongside Emwazi.
He said he left in order to “engage in the military fight against the Syrian army forces of president Bashar Assad”.
A member of the prosecution team Raj Parekh said: “Contrary to the propoganda perpetuated by ISIS, we have given Alexanda Kotey the opportunity to face justice.
“Kotey has been afforded due process and, in the face of overwhelming evidence, he made the independent decision to plead guilty to his crimes.”
He said: “The justice, fairness and humanity this defendant recevied in the United States stand in stark contrast to the cruelty, inhumanity and indiscriminate violence touted by the terrorist organisation that he espoused.”
Kotey said when he departed the UK he held “the belief and understanding that the Islamic concept of armed jihad was a valid and legitimate cause and means by which a Muslim defends his fellow Muslim against injustice”.
He admitted his role in capturing hostages and said when his involvement in that came to an end, he worked in IS’s recruitment division, as a sniper and in the terror group’s “English media department”.
Kotey said while working for IS he came into contact with Mr Henning, Mr Haines and John Cantlie, a British war correspondent who disappeared in 2012 and who remains missing.
He told the court: “Upon the orders of the Islamic State senior leadership, I, along with others, opened up channels of negotiation with the authorities, families and representatives of those captured and held by the Islamic State.
“This involved me visiting the detention facilities where the foreign captives were being held and interacting with them in every capacity that would further the prospects of our negotiation demands being met.”
Kotey said his job would be to “extract” contact details for loved ones of those taken hostage.
The terrorists would then demand the release of Islamic prisoners held by the West or large sums of money in return for the hostages’ freedom.
The alleged ringleader of the group, Mohammed Emwa, also known as Jihadi John, died in a drone strike six years ago.
Last year, the family of Mr Haines welcomed the start of court proceedings against Kotey and Elsheikh.
A statement released on their behalf by charity Hostage International said: “We have only ever wanted to see these two men being held accountable and brought to justice through a fair trial for their alleged actions.”
The statement said Mr Henning and Mr Haines “were kidnapped, starved tortured and brutalised while held captive for months on end. Alan and David were then murdered, their deaths posted publicly for propaganda.”