A British Muslim convert was jailed today for plotting to carry out a suicide bomb attack on a shopping mall in southern England.
Isa Ibrahim, a 20-year-old doctor's son who was educated at some of Britain's most exclusive private schools, was convicted of planning to kill himself and scores of innocent shoppers.
Judge Neil Butterfield said Ibrahim would be jailed for a minimum of 10 years.
"You are a dangerous young man, well capable of acting on the views you held in the spring of 2008," when he was arrested, the judge said.
Ibrahim — who changed his given name from Andrew and converted to Islam in 2006 — was convicted by a jury of making an explosive with intent to endanger life, and of making explosives with intent to cause serious injury or damage to property.
Prosecutors at Winchester Crown Court in southern England said Ibrahim probably planned to target the Broadmead shopping mall in Bristol, 120 miles southwest of London.
Ibrahim had been seen carrying out reconnaissance trips to the mall, and, following his arrest in April 2008, police found a supply of the homemade HMTD explosive, detonators and a suicide vest at his home.
Detective Superintendent Nigel Rock, the police officer who led the inquiry into Ibrahim's plot, said it "could have been a matter of days" before Ibrahim attempted to carry out his attack.
Ibrahim had claimed in court that he planned to detonate the vest safely, without wearing it, and post a video of his experiment on the YouTube Web site.
Prosecutors said Ibrahim had been increasingly interested in radical Islamic ideas and in violence. They told a jury that he had described Britain as a "dirty toilet" and had said the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States were a justified response to Western aggression toward Muslims.
"The device that Ibrahim was making was viable and he had taken steps to make it even more destructive by acquiring ball bearings and airgun pellets. He had identified a target. Had he carried out the attack he had been preparing, serious civilian casualties would have been inevitable," said Moira Macmillan, a counterterrorism lawyer with Britain's Crown Prosecution Service.
Police said Ibrahim was not known to authorities and appears to have become radicalized by researching extremist Islamic material posted on the Internet.
Prosecutors said that Ibrahim was a former drug addict who had been expelled from several private schools, including Downside School, a Catholic boarding school in southern England.
Rock said that Ibrahim was arrested after a tip-off from Muslims in Bristol. Ibrahim had bragged to members of a mosque about his plans to carry out an attack, and appeared for prayers with cuts and bruises over his hands and feet — likely caused by his attempts to develop a viable bomb.
"Without the support of the Muslim community, the worst could have happened," Rock said.