Man who called for murder of PM pleads guilty to terror charge

Ishaq Kanmi styled himself al-Qa'ida's 'emir' in the UK
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The Independent Online

A man who pretended to be al-Qa'ida's "emir" in Britain by publicly calling for the murder of Gordon Brown and Tony Blair pleaded guilty to a string of terrorism offences yesterday.

Ishaq Kanmi, 23, from Blackburn, posed as an al-Qa'ida leader on an online forum used by militants. In a message posted on the now defunct al-Ekhlaas forum in 2008, he called for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the release of all Muslims being held in Belmarsh prison. Writing under the name Umar Rabie al-Khalaila, whom he described as "the emir of al-Qa'ida in Britain", Kanmi claimed that "martyrdom-seekers" would kill Tony Blair and Gordon Brown if his demands were not met. He was arrested while boarding a plane to Finland with three storage devices and a mobile phone containing terror-related information that he intended to distribute overseas.

Appearing at Manchester Crown Court, Kanmi pleaded guilty to a string of terrorism offences including professing to belong to al-Qa'ida, inviting support for a terrorist organisation, making a terrorist recording, and dissemination of terrorist publications. His sentencing has been delayed until psychiatric reports can be prepared.

Following his conviction, it can now be reported that Kanmi was arrested on his way to Helsinki alongside Abbas Iqbal, one of three men who were recently convicted for making an al-Qa'ida style propaganda video. Iqbal, his brother Ilyas, and their friend Mohammad Ali Ahmad called themselves "the Blackburn Resistance" and recorded footage of themselves performing military exercises in a Lancashire park.

Abbas Iqbal was sentenced to three years in prison two months ago. His brother received 18 months but was released because he had already served his sentence on remand. Mr Ali Ahmad was acquitted of all charges.

In a recent interview, Ilyas Iqbal claimed he and his friends were simply "messing around" and never had any intention of carrying out terrorist attacks. Some have likened their hapless, wannabe militant antics to those of the fictional characters in Chris Morris's new comedy feature film Four Lions.

But Kanmi's conviction and his arrest alongside Abbas Iqbal suggests that at least some members of the Blackburn group of friends had been intent on spreading militant propaganda abroad and encouraging others to join terrorist groups.

Many of Kanmi's postings on militant forums were made from a computer at Blackburn Public Library. Police set up a surveillance operation inside the library between March and July 2008 and decided to swoop on Kanmi and Iqbal once they had boarded their flight to Finland in August. The pair were planning to go to a mosque in Helsinki where Kanmi had previously studied.

During Kanmi's aborted trial last year, the court heard how he posted his first message on al-Ekhlaas on 2 January in which he called for "the elimination of political leaders and, [at the] top of the list, Blair and Brown". He also vowed "huge attacks, God willing, on centres and places of benefit to the crusaders." A second message, posted towards the end of that month, detailed his demands for foreign troops to be withdrawn from Muslim lands and promised attacks on "all embassies, crusaders' centres and their interests throughout the country, with the help of Allah."

Kanmi's QC, Joel Bennathan, defended his client by describing him as "a very young, damaged man who is a million miles away from [convicted terror preacher] Abu Hamza." He said Kanmi was "reckless rather than intentional" in some of his actions.

But Andrew Edis QC, prosecuting, said Kanmi's public support for a "murderous organisation" such as al-Qa'ida was a similar crime to soliciting to murder. During last year's trial Mr Edis told jurors: "His aim was to persuade others to commit murder, to carry out acts of terror and to engage in martyrdom operations. He did what he could to help them by publishing useful information on the internet. He became a determined supporter of jihadi terrorism."