El Shafee Elsheikh, the 33-year-old British man accused of being a member of Daesh [ISIS], said that his training as a British Army cadet had been “very useful” when he traveled to fight in Syria.
Elsheikh, from east London was captured in Syria in 2018 and is currently on trial in Virginia in the US, where he stands accused of charges related to the kidnapping and murder of several people, including four Americans and two British aid workers.
One of four British Daesh members nicknamed “the Beatles” after the English pop band, Elsheikh had been trained in the use of firearms, orienteering and several other skills “at a variety of military bases” in the UK.
John Chiappone, an FBI agent who interviewed Elsheikh after he was caught by the Syrian Defense Forces, told the court: “The defendant stated he used to be a British Army cadet — a group for youth under 18 to receive military training.”
Elsheikh was stripped of his British citizenship by the UK government in March 2018 after he was captured. He initially pretended to be a Yemeni citizen, speaking only Arabic until his identity was revealed via a fingerprint database.
“He stated that he received firearms training in the SA80 rifle, and map and compass training, which was very useful when he began fighting for Isis (Daesh),” Chiappone said. “He stated that while he was in the UK, he conducted robberies, assaults, was involved in knife fighting and was previously arrested.”
Chiappone told the court that while he interviewed Elsheikh in custody in the northern Syrian city of Kobani, the Daesh fighter confirmed that fellow “Beatle” Mohammed Emwazi had been the masked figure who carried out the videoed beheadings of US citizens James Foley, Steven Sotloff and Peter Kassig, and British citizens David Haines and Alan Henning.
Elsheikh had said elsewhere of Emwazi that “he was one of the most loyal friends I’ve had — trustworthy, honest, upstanding.”
Chiappone said: “(Elsheikh) said he knew Emwazi from a mosque on Harrow Road in west London. They went swimming together and would pray together at Friday prayers and weekday prayers.”
The FBI agent added that Elsheikh and Emwazi had shared the same Daesh senior overseer, Osama Atar, also known as Abu Ahmed Al-Iraqi, suspected of being the man who ordered the killings of the American and British victims, as well as being the mastermind behind attacks in Paris and Brussels.
“Elsheikh said that he and Emwazi met Atar at the same time in 2013. He stated that he knew Mohammed Emwazi was the individual in the execution videos of the US and UK persons,” Chiappone added.
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