A member of a four-person Islamic State execution cell once led by “Jihadi John” has been identified as a British national who formerly traveled to the Gaza Strip aboard a flotilla in 2009, Buzzfeed reported on Sunday.
American and British intelligence services identified the man as Alexanda Kotey, a 32-year-old west Londoner of Ghanaian and Greek Cypriot heritage. He is the second member of the execution cell to be exposed, after Jihadi John was revealed to be fellow Londoner Mohammed Emwazi, who was killed by a U.S. drone strike last November.
Emwazi, Kotey, and two other Islamic State guards are collectively responsible for beheading 25 hostages, including Americans James Foley, Steven Sotloff, and Peter Kassig. Nicknamed the “Beatles” due to their British accents, the cell’s members gained notoriety for their cruelty, which included using electric shocks and waterboarding to torture their hostages.
Kotey grew up as an avoid football fan in Shepherd’s Bush, less than two miles away from where Emwazi was raised. He converted to Islam in his early twenties after falling in love with a Muslim woman, and has two young daughters still in Britain. Investigators believe that he was radicalized at the al-Manaar mosque, which Emwazi also attended, after his marriage broke up. A one-time friend recalled that Kotey used to justify suicide bombings in debates outside the mosque.
Kotey was also affiliated with members of the “London Boys” network of extremists, which was tied to both the July 7, 2005 terror attack in London, as well as a failed plot two weeks later.
Documents obtained by Buzzfeed reveal that Kotey participated in the “Viva Palestina” convoy to Gaza, which was arranged by former British member of Parliament George Galloway in 2009. The day before the convoy departed, nine of its participants were arrested by police under the Terrorism Act, though all were later released. A list of the convoy’s volunteers reveals that three of the participants who joined the Gaza flotilla alongside Kotey are known extremists. Among them are two members of the “London Boys” terror network, including a British-Iranian terror suspect who trained with a top al-Qaeda operative in Somalia, and a Taliban recruiter who was convicted of terror offenses in 2011.
According to a 2010 report by the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, once the convoy reached the port city of El Arish, “Egyptian authorities were surprised to find that the convoy included 59 cars (saloon) of no humanitarian use, and carrying no humanitarian supplies.” After Egypt announced that the cars would not be allowed to enter Gaza under the mechanism reserved for humanitarian supplies, Galloway and a number of the convoy’s participants threatened to torch the vehicles, and some volunteers began throwing stones Egyptian security forces while vandalizing the port. An Egyptian soldier was killed by an unknown shooter in subsequent clashes.
In Gaza, the convoy’s participants met with officials from the terrorist group Hamas, including leader Ismail Haniyeh, who reportedly praised the group for “opening the eyes of the world to the siege in the Strip.”
A friend who traveled on the “Viva Palestina” convoy with Kotey said the trip “changed” him. Kotey reportedly fell out of touch with his friends shortly afterwards. According to investigators, he eventually headed to Syria and made his way to the eastern city of Raqqa, which today serves as the de facto capital of the Islamic State.
[Photo: The Telegraph / YouTube ]