Sister of British suicide bomber 'told him to go ahead'

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A British teacher wrote emails encouraging her brother to go ahead with a suicide bombing mission in Israel, the Old Bailey heard yesterday.

Omar Sharif, 27, from Derby, and Asif Hanif, 21, from London, became the first British Muslims to take part in a suicide bomb attack when they walked into a café in Tel Aviv in April last year with explosives strapped to their bodies. Asif detonated his device, blowing himself up, killing three people and injuring 50. Omar's bomb failed to explode and he fled. His body was found in the sea 12 days later

The court was told that a week before the bombing Omar sent a "farewell" message to his wife Tahira, telling her to look after their three children. In the same email he told his brother Zahid difficult times lay ahead.

His sister Parveen Sharif, 36, a supply teacher from Derby, wrote back saying: "We all have to be firm and focused with reality as time is slipping away, and there is really no time to be weak and emotional. When we see you again it will be like only half a day has passed."

Jonathan Laidlaw, for the prosecution, said: "It becomes clear that Parveen was encouraging her brother to go through with the bombing. She was seeking to strengthen his resolve, to reassure him and she was offering him her support."

The defendants were well aware, at least in general terms, of Omar's intention before the emails, he said. "After the emails, they knew he was to embark on a suicide bombing mission. They did nothing to seek to prevent the loss of human life in Israel."

Following their arrests, the three denied knowing about Omar's plans. "Each denies any sympathy or association with extreme Muslim groups or ideology," Mr Laidlaw told the jury.

He said that Omar and Asif had travelled to Syria three weeks previously, telling friends they were to study the Koran. Instead the crossed Jordan into Israel and the Gaza Strip, where they met the Hamas representatives who had recruited them.

They passed through a checkpoint where, because of their British passports, they were subjected to only a routine search, before they went to a hostel where they attached the explosives before walking to Mike's Place, the targeted bar. They waited for the area to fill with people before detonating the first device, Mr Laidlaw said.

The court heard that Omar was one of six children whose father was a successful businessman in Derby; all had gone to university. He met his wife Tahira at King's College London where they studied maths. After failing to complete his degree Omar travelled to Syria on three occasions to study religion and Arabic.

Parveen Sharif denies inciting Omar to commit and act of terrorism. She is also accused, along with Sharif's wife Tahira Tabassum, 28, and his brother Zahid, 37, all of Derby, under the Terrorism Act of failing to disclose information about terrorism. All three deny the charges. The trial continues.