El Shafee Elsheikh was given eight concurrent life sentences after being convicted in April of hostage-taking, conspiracy to murder US citizens and supporting a terrorist organisation.

Elsheikh declined to address the court on Friday but his attorneys said he intended to appeal the verdict on the grounds of
Elsheikh declined to address the court on Friday but his attorneys said he intended to appeal the verdict on the grounds of "ineffective counsel". (AFP)

A US federal judge has sentenced a member of the Daesh terror group's cell known as "The Beatles" to life in prison for involvement in a hostage-taking plot that led to the killings of American journalists and aid workers in Syria.

Families and friends of the four Americans killed looked on as District Court Judge TS Ellis on Friday sentenced El Shafee Elsheikh, 33, to life without parole, calling his behaviour "horrific, barbaric, brutal and of course criminal".

A jury in April concluded the former British citizen was part of a Daesh cell, nicknamed "The Beatles" for their English accents, that beheaded American hostages in Middle East territory where the group exercised control.

At the peak of its power from 2014-2017, Daesh claimed responsibility for or inspired terror attacks in dozens of cities around the world.

Its leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, declared a so-called caliphate over a quarter of Iraq and Syria in 2014, before he was killed in a raid by US special forces in Syria in 2019 as the group's rule collapsed.

Elsheikh, who was born in Sudan and raised in London, was accused of conspiring to kill four American hostages: James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller.

Foley and Sotloff, both journalists, and Kassig, an aid worker, were killed in videotaped beheadings. Mueller was raped repeatedly by al Baghdadi before her death in Syria, US officials have said.

The deaths of Foley, Sotloff and Kassig were confirmed in 2014; Mueller's death was confirmed in early 2015.

READ MORE: Daesh 'Beatle' guilty of all charges in US hostage deaths

'Hatred overtook your humanity'

Elsheikh appeared in the federal courtroom in Alexandria, Virginia, on Friday wearing a gray jumpsuit, a face mask and glasses.

Family and friends of his victims were asked to make statements in front of the judge.

"Hatred completely overtook your humanity," Foley's mother, Diane said, later breaking down in tears. "I pity you. I pray your time in prison will give you a time to reflect."

The charges against Elsheikh, whose British citizenship was withdrawn in 2018, carried a potential death sentence, but US prosecutors had previously advised British officials that they would not seek the death penalty.

Prosecutors argued that a life sentence was needed to prevent Elsheikh from causing future harm and to set a precedent that such crimes will get strict punishment.

Another cell member, Alexanda Kotey, was sentenced to life in prison by a US judge earlier this year. Kotey was held in Iraq by the US military before being flown to the United States to face trial.

He pleaded guilty last September to the murders of Foley, Sotloff, Kassig and Mueller.

A third member of the group, Mohammed Emwazi, died in a US-British missile strike in Syria in 2015.

READ MORE: Member of Daesh 'Beatles' charged with terrorism in UK

Source: Reuters