They styled themselves "The Blackburn Resistance chapter" and filmed each other dressed in camouflage, "leopard crawling" through woodland in their local park in preparation for their forthcoming holy war against the evil oppressor.
But although the Iqbal brothers gathered a stockpile of weapons, firing some off in the back yard of their Lancashire home, and built up a library of terrifying terrorist material, their al-Qa'ida-style ambitions to become fully-fledged jihadists amounted to little more than a vanity project, a judge said yesterday.
Abbas Iqbal 24, was sentenced to two years in prison for the dissemination of terrorist publications and preparing for acts of terrorism. His younger brother Ilyas, 23, was jailed for 18 months for possessing a document likely to be useful to a terrorist.
During the course of the four-week trial at Manchester Crown Court, the jury was shown mobile phone footage of the brothers taken as they rustled through the undergrowth of Blackburn's Corporation Park, crawling on their bellies in broad daylight with what appeared to be a rifle. Abbas Iqbal claimed the video was a bit of "fun" – an homage to his action hero, Arnold Schwarzenegger, based on the film Predator, which he said he had seen 600 times.
The video was discovered among material found on a mobile phone memory card in the suitcase of Abbas Iqbal when he was arrested as he attempted to board a flight from Manchester Airport to northern Europe in August 2008. At the time of his arrest he was in the company of an alleged extremist, who cannot be named for legal reasons.
Passing sentence, Judge Andrew Gilbert QC said: "You fancied yourself as a fighter for the cause, but the truth is you were a very low-grade one. It would be wrong to pass a long sentence on someone who is obviously more taken with the vanity than the reality."
Both men have already spent two-and-a-half years on remand and will be released soon. The park video is introduced by a voice stating: "They are fighting against oppression, they are The Blackburn Resistance." It features a background chant which recites: "I am the armour for those who believe in the unity of Allah. I am the fire against the aggressor."
Prosecutor Edward Brown QC conceded that the film appeared amateurish and comical but said the brothers were "intoxicated" by terrorism and the footage was a "promotional collage" intended to radicalise others abroad.
Police searched the Iqbal family home in Percival Street, Blackburn, where officers uncovered extremist material on a computer and an armoury stockpile in a cabinet. It contained several air rifles, knives, machetes, a sword, a crossbow, various ammunition, books on weaponry and hand- written notes on "Attack planning" and "Urban combat". Ilyas Iqbal said his notes on "Urban combat" were largely based on the Hollywood movie Black Hawk Down.
A third man, Muhammad Ahmad, 26, was cleared of preparing for an act of terrorism.