Britain's youngest terrorist behind bars

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The Independent Online

Britain's youngest terrorist was behind bars today after a guide to death and explosives was found in the schoolboy's home.

Hammaad Munshi, just 16 and taking GCSEs when arrested, was part of a cell of cyber groomers that set out to brainwash the vulnerable to kill "non-believers".

For nearly a year the teenager, whose grandfather is a leading Islamic scholar, led a double life.

By day he attended lessons at the local comprehensive and did as he was told.

But in the evening he spent hours surfing jihadist sites and distributing material to others as part of what the Crown branded a "worldwide conspiracy" to "wipe out" non-Muslims.

London's Blackfriars Crown Court heard it contained detailed instructions about making napalm, other high explosives, detonators, and grenades, and "how to kill".

He was 15 when recruited by Aabid Khan, 23, a "key player" in radicalising the impressionable and vulnerable here and abroad with his message of "violent jihad".

They lived 10 miles apart, phoned each other during 2005 and 2006, and swapped documents about "black powder explosives".

Khan wanted to fulfil the teenager's wish to go abroad and "fight jihad", and during one internet exchange discussed how the schoolboy might smuggle a sword through airport security.

The Dewsbury-born teenager was detained a day after Khan as he and friends returned from local Westborough High School.

The IT whizz-kid - whose online Arabic profile "fidadee" means a "person ready to sacrifice themselves for a particular cause" - ran a website selling hunting knives and Islamic flags and was the cell's computer specialist.

Two bags of ball-bearings - the shrapnel of choice for suicide bombers - were found in one of his pockets

On his PC were al Qaida propaganda videos and recordings promoting "murder and destruction".

The teenager, whose grandfather is Sheikh Yakub Munshi, president of the Islamic Research Institute of Great Britain at the Markazi Mosque, Dewsbury, also stored notes on martyrdom under his bed.

"One who is not taking part in the battle nor has the sheer intention to die is in the branch of hypocrisy," they read.

"I don't want to be a person like it has been mentioned about, I don't want to be deprived of the huge amounts or lessons Allah has prepared for the believers in the hereafter."

Khan, the schoolboy's mentor, had links with proscribed terrorist organisations Jaishe-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, and helped radicalise jailed "wannabe suicide bomber" Mohammed Atif Siddique.

Khan was returning from Pakistan - possibly after terror camp training - when detained.

The "routine stop" at Manchester Airport on June 6 2006 yielded the largest cyber "encyclopaedia" of articles promoting terrorism seized by police.

It included personal information, including addresses, of various members of the Royal Family.

Among them were the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales, the Duke of York, the Princess Royal, and the Earl and Countess of Wessex.

There was also a guide to killing non-Muslims, and discussions about setting up a secret Islamic state in a remote area of Scotland.

Also found were US and Canadian military training manuals, a Terrorist's Handbook, a Mujahideen Explosives Handbook, and a Mujahideen Poisons Handbook containing a recipe for ricin and encouragement for "brothers" to experiment on "kuffar" (non-believers).

Sketches of combat suits, which he dismissed as "ghetto clothing but with an Islamic theme", were in his Filofax.

Bradford-born Khan - "Del Boy" to his contacts - ran At-Tibiyan Publications, an "online extremist support network".

In one exchange he spoke of finding a "big target and taking it out... like a military base in the UK. Praise be to Allah.

"Our group is growing. We need to plan better and adapt. Now a few more people are showing interest. We need to confirm and encourage... I want to have a group of at least 12."

Another exchange read: "What I want to do is cause trouble for the kuffar with hit-and-runs everywhere, cause fear and panic in their countries, make them nervous so they make mistakes."

Operation Praline, headed by Leeds Counter-Terrorism Unit, examined a huge number of files from hard-drives and DVDs in Khan's suitcase, and identified two fellow "jihadists".

Post officer night sorter Sultan Muhammad, 23, was Khan's cousin and "right-hand man". They regularly chatted about killing non-believers and buying the explosives component acetone.

He fled to London after Khan's arrest and was arrested two weeks later near a "safe house.

Khan, who admitted being interested in jihad at 12, insisted he was in Pakistan selling mobiles and visiting earthquake victims and claimed the material police found resulted from "hoarding and curiosity".

Munshi did not give evidence, but used his barrister to also argue "curiosity".

Muhammad remained in the dock as well, suggesting through counsel the computer files belonged to others.

But the seven-woman, four-man man jury which spent six days considering the evidence, convicted them of eight Terrorism Act offences committed between November 23 2005, and June 20 2006.

Three accused Khan, of Otley Road, Undercliffe, Bradford, West Yorkshire, of possessing articles for a purpose connected with terrorism. He was cleared of a similar count.

Muhammad, of nearby Hanover Square, Manningham, was found guilty of three similar charges and one of making a record of information likely to be useful in terrorism.

Munshi, now 18, from Greenwood Street, Saville Town, Dewsbury, was found guilty of a making offence but not guilty a possession offence.

A fourth defendant, Ahmed Sulieman, 30, from south London, was cleared of three possession allegations after explaining the files found belonged to somebody else.

Judge Timothy Pontius told an impassive Khan and Muhammad they would remain in custody until tomorrow when he would pass sentence.

Turning to an equally unemotional Munshi, the judge said although he had been on bail he, too, would now be remanded in custody.

But unlike the others, he would be dealt with at the Old Bailey on September 19 after the preparation of a pre-sentence report.

"It is very much in your interests therefore to cooperate with the probation officer who comes to interview you, but you must be very realistic about the seriousness of your position.

"It is inevitable, in my view, as things stand and subject to anything that might be said on your behalf, that a custodial sentence will follow," he added.

The three-month trial heard Khan's arrest came after his third four-month trip to Pakistan since 2003, and visits to Egypt and Canada, where one of his two wives lives.

Video footage in his luggage showed him visiting the Ballakot Mountains, home of a Jaishe-Mohammed training camp.

More damning were thousands of computer files on a hard-drive and some DVDs in his suitcase.

Simon Denison, prosecuting, said they demonstrated "deep commitment to and involvement in violent jihad by promoting it, inciting others to take part in it and arranging for himself and others to attend military training in Pakistan in preparation for going to fight and, inevitably, to kill".

There was "detailed, practical information on making and using weapons, explosives and poisons, and carrying out... murder on potential terrorist targets in the UK and abroad".

One document urged "assassinating named personnel and foreign tourists, and freeing captured brothers from the enemy".

It backed "spreading rumours" and "blasting and destroying places of amusement, immorality and sin, embassies, vital economic centres and bridges".

There was information about London's tube system and Tower Bridge, maps of US metros, and videos of the Washington Memorial and World Bank.

There were guidelines to "beating and killing hostages", forging identity documents, training, weapons purchasing, undercover operations, planning assassinations, and coaching "brothers" to answer questions when travelling to and from Pakistan.

"He had documents providing detailed information on surveillance and counter surveillance," said Mr Denison.

"This information amounted to a terrorist encyclopaedia or library that would have enabled him or others to carry out terrorist attacks here or abroad in a variety of ways, and thereby further the cause that appeared to be his mission in life - the war on western values and anyone who was a non-believer in the Muslim faith."

The material had a "recurring theme - that it was the duty of all Muslims to attack non-believers and that the greatest honour for them was to die a martyr in an act of violence furthering their views".

Investigators discovered he had bought two guns - a de-commissioned Kalshnikov and a gas-fired AK47-lookalike air rifle.

Police found neither but believe he got them for terrorist training sessions in remote parts of Britain.

Mr Denison said Khan was "dedicated to the pursuit of a violent holy war against anyone, any person or any country which did not believe in his religion... and was a significant figure in promoting this view".

Muhammed, who was in Pakistan during one of Khan's trips, had a hoard of similar material in his bedroom.

Apart from "dummy" AK47 ammunition, there was a DVD and CD library of jihadist propaganda promoting "acts of extreme violence and incitement... to commit them".

Al Qaida supporters were depicted "glorifying" roadside bombs, suicide bombers, killing American and British soldiers in Iraq, and beheading hostages.

Said counsel: "Perhaps one of the most chilling videos... was a step-by-step guide to making a suicide bomber's vest, using... ball bearings as shrapnel and demonstrating the effects."

Police found an SAS handbook, maps of London Underground, Jerusalem and Manhattan, a book entitled Suicide Bombings, an encryption code, photographs of a smiling Osama bin Laden, and instructions on making bazookas and explosives.

Mr Denison said the documents the defendants demonstrated "motivation by their common cause - violent jihad against non-believers.

"The computers, CDs and books... were the necessary tools of their trade for the furtherance of that violent cause.

"Each of the defendants is Muslim. The material in their possession promoted extreme ideology, most notoriously of Osama bin Laden of al Qaida, as well as groups in various countries that adopted it.

"In simple terms there is a global conspiracy... against those who don't believe in their extreme vision of Islam and to wipe out those of other faiths."

After the case Detective Chief Superintendent John Parkinson, head of Leeds Counter Terrorism Unit, said: "Today's verdict marks the end of an intense and complex inquiry.

"Let there be no doubt, these are dangerous individuals. These men were not simply in possession of material which expressed extremist views. They were also in possession of material that was operationally useful to anyone wishing to carry out an act of violence or terrorism.

"This material was not all open source, nor was it widely available. In fact, much of it was exclusive, restricted to trusted individuals who had privileged access to secure internet chat rooms. Some of the information was even created by the defendants.

"While these men may not have been actively planning acts of terrorism themselves, they sought to insight others for terrorist purposes, promoting al Qaida ideology and training programmes.

"In many respects, Khan, Muhammad, and Munshi were 'facilitators'. They had the knowledge required to orchestrate terrorist acts and they willingly shared that expertise with others. These are not the actions of curious individuals, or even those who are sympathetic to terrorist objectives.

They are the actions of people who pose a very real threat to our communities," he said.

The officer added: "We will continue to work alongside local people and our partners, both in the UK and abroad, to counter terrorism at every level and protect all our communities from harm.

"We would like to thank local communities in West Yorkshire for their consistent support and cooperation throughout both the investigation and the duration of this trial."