Isis supporter jailed for life after trying to make 'fairy lights bomb' at parents' home in Birmingham

Zahid Hussain, 29, viewed hundreds of Isis images while researching how to make explosives 

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
@lizziedearden
Monday 09 October 2017 14:12
Zahid Hussain tried to make a pressure-cooker bomb and improvised detonator parts from fairy lights in a bedroom in his parents' house
Zahid Hussain tried to make a pressure-cooker bomb and improvised detonator parts from fairy lights in a bedroom in his parents' house

An Isis supporter who tried to make a bomb in his parents’ house after being “bedroom radicalised” by propaganda has been jailed for life.

Zahid Hussain’s device was intended to cause a “significant explosion” and could have killed dozens of people, a judge told Winchester Crown Court.

“If detonated in a crowded area it would have been potentially fatal to those within metres of it and would have potentially caused serious injury among those up to 10 metres away,” Mr Justice Sweeney said.

​Hussain’s pressure cooker device was would not have worked but the jury heard he was “strongly committed” to launching a deadly attack, packing the bomb with 1.6kg of shrapnel.

The "dangerous" 29-year-old, from Birmingham, was jailed for life with a minimum term of 15 years for preparing for acts of terrorism.

He will initially be detained at a regional secure unit because he suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and remain on licence for 30 years after being freed.

Zahid Hussain tried to make a pressure cooker bomb and improvised detonator parts from fairy lights in a bedroom in his parents' house

Hussain, a former doorman, was arrested in August 2015 after police stopped him and found he was carrying a knife, crow bar and hand-written notes detailing explosives instructions.

Subsequent searches at his home discovered he had constructed a home-made pressure cooker device using adapted Christmas tree lights and shrapnel including metal nails, screws and bolts.

Police also seized dismantled mobile phones, alarm clocks and doorbell chimes and bottles of hydrogen peroxide, together with text books detailing small arms combat and guerrilla warfare techniques, including targeting railway lines.

The extremist had attempted to create a remote-control detonator with a wireless doorbell and had successfully manufactured four explosives initiators from fairy lights.

He had attempted to make 3.8kg of a secondary explosive and a quantity of a high explosive intended to set it off.

Hussain had accidentally thwarted his efforts by unknowingly buying components that looked identical to what he needed, but did not contain the necessary chemicals to explode.

His attempts appeared to be following a manual released by al-Qaeda, which has been linked to atrocities including the Boston Marathon bombings and the botched Parsons Green attack, but can still be obtained within seconds online.

Zahid Hussain tried to make a pressure-cooker bomb and improvised detonator parts from fairy lights in a bedroom in his parents' house

Jurors were told that the Boston bombers were among terrorists Hussain researched, including Osama bin Laden, while viewing thousands of Isis propaganda images and videos.

The court heard he used a bedroom in his parents' house as his ”base of operations and improvised laboratory“ where he researched and attempted to assemble explosives.

Searches also uncovered evidence he carried out reconnaissance of woods near the house in Naseby Drive, Alum Rock.

CCTV showed him climbing down a storm drain near a high-speed rail line and he was arrested after being spotted "patrolling" streets near the family home.

Hussain lied after being detained, claiming he intended to sell the device to The Sun newspaper and that he was merely ”experimenting“ with explosives.

Mr Justice Sweeney said: "In your case, culpability is extremely high as more than one explosion was clearly intended, and the harm to be caused was ultimately loss of life or serious injury to the person.

“You were clearly deeply radicalised and, over a period of at least nine months, were strongly committed to what you were doing.”

Zahid Hussain tried to make a pressure cooker bomb and improvised detonator parts from fairy lights in a bedroom in his parents' house

The High Court judge said he had taken account of psychiatric reports concluding that Hussain was and still is a paranoid schizophrenic, but “had some doubts as to the genuineness of your mental illness”.

He was initially sectioned under the Mental Health Act and remains under care but was declared fit to stand trial last year.

The judge concluded that the bomb plot “was only partly attributable to that disorder”, finding that the principal driver had been Hussain's “voluntary bedroom radicalisation”.

“You are a dangerous offender and in the view of the level of the danger that you pose, and the impossibility of predicting when it will come to an end, this is an appropriate case in which to impose a sentence of life imprisonment,” Mr Justice Sweeney told Hussain.

Chief Superintendent Matt Ward, head of counter terrorism for the West Midlands, said Hussain possessed the components to make a “viable explosive device”.

He added: “There was no evidence of any intended target or specific attack. But by its very nature, this could have been an extremely dangerous device.

“Examination of his computer discovered browsing history relating to terrorism including bomb making, bomb blast injuries - showing he had a consistent and continued interest in terrorism and conflict.”

Additional reporting by PA