One of “The Beatles” jihadists who was moved to US custody after Turkey launched an assault on Kurdish-held Syrian lands said a week before his transfer he wanted to return to Britain.
US President Donald Trump stunned many by tweeting on Wednesday that two of the men were now in a “secure location controlled by the US”.
The four-man jihadist cell was reported to have been especially notorious — even among fellow Islamic State members — for sadistic torture methods and execution videos.
Their list of beheading victims included US reporter James Foley and UK aid worker David Haines.
The jihadists’ British accents placed them among other Europeans who joined IS as the terror network began capturing Syrian and Iraqi territories in 2014.
The US State Department has identified one of the four as El Shafee Elsheikh — a Sudanese-born Briton whose UK citizenship has since been revoked.
Elsheikh told a team from ITV television while he was still being held by Kurdish fighters in a northern Syrian prison camp that he felt unsafe and wanted to stand trial in Britain.
“It’s very unstable,” Elsheikh said of the security situation around the Kurdish camp.
“If the UK wants to put me on trial then I will defend myself with what I can. I will admit to what I admit to, and defend myself on what I defend myself on.”
Elsheikh added that he had “never committed a crime in the United States“ and “has nothing” there.
That view is one largely shared by Trump.
The isolationist US leader is promising to end foreign interventions and demanding that European countries take back their own fighters.
The possibility of stretched Kurds deciding to focus on fighting Turkish soldiers instead of keeping watch over thousands of IS captives has pushed the issue to the fore.
Yet Britain remains uncertain about how to handle the potential return of hardened warriors who denounced Western culture and fought for its demise.
Haines’ daughter Beth said she heard of the two men’s transfer to US custody with relief.
Her father was executed by “Beatles” member “Jihadi John”. The fighter was himself killed in a suspected US drone strike.
“Justice is what we are waiting for, that’s the end of the story,” Beth Haines told ITV.
“It is hugely important and it is such a relief that the chances of them escaping are very much lessened now.
“But if he thinks that for one minute he’s gonna have an easy time of it in that courtroom… When he sees me, he’s got another thing coming.“
Britain became embroiled in an emotional debate when one of four London school girls who joined the IS was found alive in a Syrian camps in February.
Shamima Begum had been heavily pregnant at the time and was desperately trying to go back home.
But then-interior minister Sajid Javid stripped her of her citizenship in order to keep her out.
The decision splintered British public opinion and sparked a heated media debate.
Begum gave birth in squalid camp conditions and reported the baby’s death within a few weeks.
Javid came under strong criticism from the UK opposition and even former MI6 foreign intelligence service director Richard Barrett.
“Despite the justifiable (security) concern, governments have a responsibility to address the problems created by their captured nationals,” Barrett wrote in The Guardian newspaper at the time.
“It is unreasonable to expect the (Kurdish) Syrian Defence Forces — who have no jurisdiction to try them — to look after them indefinitely.”