Four jailed for plot to bomb Territorial Army army base

 

Two British terrorists who discussed plans for an al-Qa'ida-inspired attack in the UK have been ordered to serve up to 16 years and three months in jail.

Zahid Iqbal, 31, and Mohammed Sharfaraz Ahmed, 25, discussed sending a remote-controlled toy car carrying a home-made bomb under the gates of a Territorial Army centre in Luton, London's Woolwich Crown Court heard.

Mr Justice Wilkie QC said the pair posed "a significant risk of serious harm to the public" as he imposed a custodial sentence of least 11 years and three months, with a five-year extension period subject to licence.

Umar Arshad, 24, was jailed for six years and nine months and Syed Farhan Hussain, 22, for five years and three months for their roles in preparing for a terrorist attack.

The men, all from Luton, had admitted one count of engaging in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism between January 1 2011 and April 25 2012 at a hearing on March 1.

Iqbal, of Bishopscote Road, Arshad, of Crawley Road, Hussain, of Cornel Close, and Ahmed, of Maidenhall Road, considered methods, materials and targets for a terrorist attack, the court heard.

Iqbal and Ahmed spoke about making an improvised explosive device (IED) based upon instructions in an al Qaida manual entitled "make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom - by the al Qaida chef", the court was told.

Covert recordings of the pair heard Iqbal suggesting attaching the bomb to a remote controlled toy car and sending it under the gap of a gate to a Territorial Army (TA) centre in Luton.

Iqbal was recorded telling Ahmed: "I was looking and drove past like the TA centre, Marsh Road. At the bottom of their gate there's quite a big gap.

"If you had a little toy car it drives underneath one of their vehicles or something."

The men were arrested following a series of raids at their homes in April last year after an intelligence-led joint operation by the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command and the British Security Service (BSS).

The court heard that Iqbal was acting as a "facilitator" for people who wanted to travel for "extremist purposes" and he had direct contact with a Pakistani operative who was given the pseudonym "Modern Sleeve".

He helped Ahmed travel to Pakistan in March 2011 for military training and discussed methods of avoiding detection, the court heard.

Ahmed was observed by surveillance on "numerous occasions" going on trips to mountainous regions such as Snowdonia with others in preparation.

By spring 2011 Iqbal, a married father-of-one, lost contact with "Modern Sleeve" in Pakistan.

As a result of this, and also inspired by information from a series of the banned al Qaida online magazine Inspire, Iqbal and Ahmed began to focus on attack planning in the UK, prosecutor Max Hill QC said.

"They discussed making an IED following instructions from an Inspire magazine which they planned to adapt," he said.

"They also identified a target for such an attack, namely a Territorial Army base in their locality, although they discussed targeting multiple sites at one time," he said.

In May 2011 Ahmed and Hussain were recorded in which they discussed the possibility of doing an "inside job" on MI5, Mr Hill told the court.

A search of Iqbal's house found a hard drive containing a number of items including a copy of 44 Ways to Support Jihad, by Anwar Al Awlaki, the court heard.

A copy of Inspire magazine including articles on how to bypass airport security and avoid detection by X-ray scanning equipment, how to transport explosives in printer cartridges and how packages were shipped to Yemen in cargo planes was also found.

Search warrants issued in September 2011 at the defendants' addresses uncovered evidence from computers and digital media, mobile telephones and SIM cards, passports, travel documentation and quantities of cash, the court was told.

Mr Wilkie said a further 13 counts relating to the possession of information contrary to the Terrorism Act 2000 should be left on the file.

Addressing Iqbal and Ahmed, Mr Wilkie said: "In each of their cases, their persistent commitment to terrorist activity, in a number of different ways, over a significant period of time and, in each case, their willingness to take practical steps to obtain terrorist training abroad, marks them as particularly dangerous."

Lawyers for Ahmed and Iqbal had claimed the conversation covertly recorded about the proposed Territorial Army base attack was a "one-off" that went no further.

The court heard that Arshad provided cash and sim cards for Ahmed's trip to Pakistan and advised him on a cover story while he was there.

He also downloaded electronic editions of Inspire that could be useful for a person preparing an act of terrorism, the hearing was told.

Hussian, too, downloaded materal from Inspire and spoke to Ahmed about sourcing a firearm, which he never obtained, the court heard.

During sentencing, Mr Wilkie said that while Arshad was no "Walter Mitty" character, his offending was at a lowel level than Iqbal and Ahmed. Hussain's offending was also "less serious" than the other defendants, the judge said.

Deputy assistant commissioner Stuart Osborne, head of the Met's counter terrorism command, said the jail sentences for all four men ensured that "the public are safer".

"More than one travelled to Pakistan to carry out terrorist training and was also actively involved in radicalising and recruiting others to follow the same route," he said.

"They took advantage of practical information from Inspire and several other terrorist publications which have the ultimate aim of encouraging attacks.

"The actions and intentions of these men starkly demonstrate what we have repeatedly said - that terrorists live among us while they carry out their plans, doing all they can to conceal their activities.

"We need the help of all our communities to come forward with information about such behaviour or activity so that we can arrest and charge individuals who have violent, extremist views and pose a danger to the public."

PA

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