Anti-IS coalition to weigh fate of captured foreign jihadists

Rome (AFP) - The US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group meet in Rome Tuesday to discuss the fate of foreign jihadists held in Syria, including two Britons who carried out brutal beheadings.

They are among thousands of jihadists captured by US-backed Syrian fighters as IS fled its so-called "caliphate" following months of intense fighting that saw the liberation of the group's "capital" Raqa last year.

The thorny issue of what to do with the foreigners has sparked intense debate in the West, with France calling for them to be tried in situ by their captors.

US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis told reporters as he headed to Rome on Sunday to meet with 13 of his coalition counterparts that the battle to eradicate IS was ongoing.

"The fight is not over," Mattis said.

Pentagon official Kathy Wheelbarger, accompanying Mattis on the flight, said of the jihadists' fate: "We are working with the coalition on foreign fighter detainees and generally expect those detainees to return to their country of origin for disposition."

But the fate of Alexanda Amon Kotey and El Shafee el-Sheikh -- captured by US-backed Syrian Kurdish forces in January -- remains uncertain.

Britain's Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson told the Sun newspaper last week: "I don't think they should ever set foot in this country again."

Their cell is accused of abducting and decapitating around 20 hostages including American journalist James Foley who was beheaded in 2012.

And the first and only US citizen caught on the battlefield allegedly fighting for IS -- identified in court papers as "John Doe" -- is also in a legal limbo, held in Iraq as Washington grapples with his fate.