The six bomb plotters trained at a dark and seedy gym that has proved to be the hangout of choice for Birmingham-based jihadists.
Two of the gang members also worked at the Darul Ihsaan gym – known as the Baker Street gym – which campaigners have tried to shut for years because of fears that youngsters were being brainwashed there. It has been described on internet chatrooms as a hotbed for jihadist activity.
A jihadist convicted over a separate terrorist plot and a man once dubbed “the terrorists’ favourite bookseller” – Ahmed Faraz – both had financial interests in the gym. Faraz ran the former Maktabah Islamic bookshop in Birmingham, distributing terrorist books and DVDs that ended up in the hands of extremists including the leader of the July 7 suicide bombers. He was jailed last year but his conviction was quashed on appeal and is free.
When The Independent visited earlier this year, the predominantly Asian clientele insisted that the gym, a former industrial unity, had changed hands and nobody claimed to know any of the bomb plotters. On the day we visited, the gym appeared rundown and reeked of sweat and has a few old weights and benches over two floors down an alley in the Sparkhill area of the city. Another part of the gym appeared to have been used for prayers.
The same gym was used by members of another group who were jailed last week for trying to launch a series of suicide bomb attacks on unidentified crowded venues. The gym was the meeting point for rival groups of jihadists who fell out over tactics, that trial heard.
The ringleader of that group, Irfan Naseer, who was jailed for life last week, was caught in bugged conversations saying how other groups were furious with him for sending four young men to Pakistan, amid fears that it could lead to increased police attention on the gym. West Midlands police said they had worked with management at the gym to address their concerns and it remains open.