'Kill Blair' extremist was a 'lonely young man'

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

A British-born Muslim who called for the assassinations of Gordon Brown and Tony Blair was a "lonely young man" who "wallowed" in extremist material, a court heard today.

Ishaq Kanmi, 23, of Blackburn, Lancashire, posted a message on a Jihadi website which declared the two former prime ministers would be targeted by "martyrdom seekers" if his demands were not met.

Pretending to be Umar Rabie - the head of "al Qaida in Britain" - he issued a two-month deadline in January 2008 calling for the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, together with the release of all Muslim captives from Belmarsh prison in London.

Manchester Crown Court was told no such organisation was thought to exist and there was no evidence Kanmi had any association with the hierarchy of al Qaida.

He composed most of his messages from a public computer at his hometown library.

A covert surveillance operation was set up at the library as officers stood behind Kanmi and captured him on camera openly downloading Jihadi material. On one occasion he watched a video of guns being fired into the air.

Kanmi was arrested at Manchester Airport as he waited to board a flight to Finland in August 2008.

He had three electronic storage devices in his suitcase and was carrying a mobile phone which all contained terror-related information which he intended to distribute.

Kanmi was travelling to Helsinki with Abbas Iqbal, 24, one of two brothers who filmed al Qaida-style propaganda videos in a park in broad daylight and dubbed themselves "The Blackburn Resistance".

In mitigation, Joel Bennathan QC said his client had a "miserable childhood" in which he was constantly bullied at school and had no friends.

At his primary school in Blackburn he was the only boy who wore traditional Muslim clothing.

When he was a young boy he was made to assume the stress position against a wall as he was taught from the Koran.

His understanding of English was poor as his education was exclusively formed by his religious studies in which he was able to memorise the Koran in Arabic by the time he was aged 15.

On leaving school, Kanmi also had health problems with his knees and his hearing.

It was then that he drifted into his local library where he was told how to use a computer and went on to use it at great length.

Mr Bennathan said: "Once he was there endlessly using the computers, he got quite handy with them. He wallowed in the sort of Jihadi material he found and committed the offences he has pleaded guilty to."

Kanmi would take great care in deleting the history of websites he visited and postings he made at the library.

"It was an odd mix," said Mr Bennathan. "There is a level of skill and expertise but there is the bizarre feature of someone spending hours and hours watching Jihadi material at a public library."

He said his client could hardly be compared to mature, intelligent, nationally known figures such as clerics Abu Hamza and Abdullah el-Faisal who were convicted and jailed for urging their followers to murder others.

"The defendant was a lonely young man sitting in the Blackburn public library who provoked ridicule and, by and large, indifference," he said. "There is a great gulf between him and those people."

Mr Bennathan asked the judge in the case, Mr Justice Mackay, to "reflect that gulf" when he passes sentence tomorrow morning.

In May, Kanmi, of Cromwell Street, pleaded guilty to professing to belong to al Qaida and inviting support for the terror group.

He also admitted collecting or making a record of information likely to be useful to a terrorist and three counts of disseminating terrorist publications.

Kanmi denied two counts of soliciting to murder Mr Brown and Mr Blair, which were allowed to lie on file.

Andrew Edis QC, prosecuting, said today that between May 2007 and August 2008 Kanmi was "carrying out a determined internet campaign designed to radicalise and recruit people to the cause of jihadi terrorism.

"Specifically, the first of the postings called for martyrdom operations against named persons including Gordon Brown and Tony Blair," he continued.

"He was purporting to have started an organisation, an offshoot of al Qaida within the UK, in calling people to flock to its banner."

Among his claims made under other pseudonyms was that he was an insurgent fighting in Iraq and that he had met Osama bin Laden.

One man who responded to his online messages was Krenar Lusha, 30, who was convicted by a jury at Preston Crown Court in December last year of five counts of possessing terror-related articles and jailed for seven years.

Kanmi, still posing as Umar Rabie, had been in phone and internet contact with Lusha, who was caught downloading a video on how to blow people up when police burst into his home in Derby.

Officers also discovered 71.8 litres of petrol in the cellar of his terrace house and computer documents such as "The Bomb Book" and videos including Mobile Detonators.

Following a trial at Manchester Crown Court, Abbas Iqbal, a former classmate of Kanmi, was sentenced in March to two years in jail for dissemination of terrorist material and one year for preparing for acts of terrorism, to run concurrently. He later walked free from court as he had already served two-and-a-half years on remand.

Kanmi has served 663 days on remand in custody following the collapse of his original trial at Preston Crown Court last year due to legal reasons.

He will be sentenced tomorrow at 10am.