30 years for BA terror plotter

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The Independent Online

A British Airways computer expert was jailed for 30 years today for plotting to launch a 9/11-style terror attack from the UK.

Rajib Karim, 31, wanted to use his position at the airline to plant a bomb on a plane as part of a "chilling" conspiracy with Anwar Al-Awlaki, a notorious radical preacher associated with al-Qa'ida.

Among numerous plots to bring the airline to its knees, Karim hoped he could exploit industrial action by staff to become a cabin crew member and cause an explosion on a US-bound flight.

He was found guilty last month of four counts of planning terrorism.

Sentencing him at Woolwich Crown Court, judge Mr Justice Calvert-Smith said they were offences "of the utmost gravity".

The judge recommended that Karim be automatically deported after he has completed his sentence.

He told Karim that he "worked incessantly to further terrorist purposes" while leading a quiet and unobtrusive lifestyle.

The judge said: "The offences were of the utmost gravity.

"You are and were a committed jihadist who understood his duty to his religion involves fighting and, God-willing, dying and then being rewarded in the afterlife."

He added: "It is a feature of this case that none of those who worked with you at British Airways had even the slightest notion of what was going on."

Defence counsel James Wood said Karim's actions were "wholly embryonic" and that there was little certainty about what would have transpired.

The judge said he accepted that Karim was more of "a follower than a leader".

But he went on: "Had the necessary infrastructure been put in place by others, he would have felt it was his duty to carry out jihad.

"I have to sentence on the basis that he meant what he said."

A jury heard the father-of-one was "committed to an extreme jihadist and religious cause" and was "determined to seek martyrdom".

Scotland Yard described the case as the most sophisticated decryption task it had ever undertaken.

Colin Gibbs, a counter-terrorism lawyer for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), described Karim's deep determination to plan an attack as "chilling".

Karim plotted to blow up an aircraft, shared information of use to al-Awlaki, offered to help financial or disruptive attacks on BA and gained a UK job to exploit terrorist purposes.

The Bangladeshi national, who moved with his wife and son to Newcastle in 2006, had previously admitted being involved in the production of a terrorist group's video, fundraising and volunteering for terror attacks abroad.

Karim, a privately-educated IT expert from a middle-class family in Dhaka, was lured into becoming an avid supporter of the extremist organisation Jammat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) by his younger brother Tehzeeb.

But their plan to live in an Islamic state was put on hold when Karim moved to England in December 2006.

Karim, described as "mild-mannered, well-educated and respectful", hid his hatred for Western ways from colleagues by joining a gym, playing football and never airing extreme views.

But at the same time he was using his access to the airline's offices in Newcastle and at Heathrow to spread confidential information.

After gaining a post-graduate job at BA in 2007, Karim held "John le Carre-style" secret meetings with fellow Islamic extremists at Heathrow and, in 2009, began communicating with al-Awlaki from his home in Brunton Lane.

He also shared details of his BA contacts and communicated in code with JMB supporters in Bangladesh.

In one of his encrypted communications recovered by police, Karim said: "From the moment I entered this country, my niyah (purpose) was to do something for the deen (for the faith), it was not to make a living here and start enjoying life.

"I got the BA job against all odds and really felt it was help from Allah."

The judge praised detectives for their painstaking work decrypting coded messages found on Karim's computer.

Karim became highly-skilled in conducting secret communications and contacted his brother using elaborate encryptions on computer spreadsheets.

Both Karim and al-Awlaki are linked to al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (Aqap), the terror group blamed for last October's cargo plane bomb plot.