The parents of one of six British troops killed in the most deadly attack in Helmand were among those horrified to read a Facebook message days later that said “all soldiers should die and go to hell”, a court heard.
Today Azhar Ahmed, 20, was found guilty of sending a grossly offensive message when he appeared in the dock. District Judge Jane Goodwin described his remarks as “derogatory, disrespectful and inflammatory”.
Ahmed had denied the charge, but said he had now realised that he had insulted and upset people with his online rant. His Facebook comments elicited a host of angry comments, some from friends and relatives of people killed in Afghanistan.
“That’s when I realised it was unacceptable for them to see something so upsetting and distressing, to write something like that,” he told Kirklees Magistrates Court in Huddersfield.
The six soldiers, five of whom were from a battalion of the local Yorkshire Regiment, died on 6 March when their vehicle hit an improvised explosive device - the largest loss of British life in Afghanistan since a Nimrod plane crash six years earlier which killed 14 servicemen.
Two days later Ahmed, of Dewsbury, posted a status update which read: “People gassin about the deaths of Soldiers! What about the innocent familys who have been brutally killed. The women who have been raped. The children who have been sliced up! Your enemy’s were the Taliban not innocent harmful familys.
“All soldiers should DIE & go to HELL! THE LOWLIFE F****N SCUM! gotta problem. go cry at your soldiers grave and wish him hell because thats where he is going.”
Today Niall Carlin, prosecuting, told the court that the message, which was copied and sent around the internet, was seen by the parents of one of the recently deceased soldiers. He went on to read a statement from one of Ahmed’s former schoolmates, Ashleigh Craig, who said she was “angered, upset and disgusted” by what he wrote as she had lost two friends in Afghanistan.
Police protection had to be provided to another man with the same surname who was plagued with offensive calls and people waiting outside his home, after his address was wrongly linked with that of the defendant. Biscuit firm Fox’s was also inundated with complaints, as Ahmed’s Facebook profile claimed falsely that he worked for the company.
Today he told the court that he had only been trying to make the point that many other deaths in Afghanistan were being ignored. “I wasn’t thinking, ‘I’m happy they’ve died’. It was just, like, what about those other people who have died? I just wanted to bring a little attention to those innocent families,” he said.
Released on bail before sentencing on 9 October, Ahmed left the court past a crowd of 30 demonstrators wearing EDL clothing, surrounded by a large police presence.