Mohiussunnath Chowdhury: Buckingham Palace sword attacker jailed for life for new terror plot after being released from prison

Jihadi ‘hit the ground running’ for new attacks after socialising with terrorists in HMP Belmarsh

Lizzie Dearden
Security Correspondent
Thursday 09 July 2020 17:21 BST
Man who plotted attacks at tourism hotspots convicted of terrorism offences

A jihadi who was acquitted of launching a terror attack at Buckingham Palace has been jailed for mounting new plots after being released from prison.

Mohiussunnath Chowdhury slashed police officers with a sword outside the Queen’s official residence while shouting “Allahu akbar” in August 2017.

But he denied attempting an act of terror and claimed he was just trying to make the police shoot him dead because he was depressed.

After being cleared by a jury, Chowdhury was freed from the prison in December 2018 and “hit the ground running” for new attacks.

He refused to stand for a judge as he was sentenced on Thursday at Woolwich Crown Court, where he sat in the dock wearing a grey jumper, blue surgical mask and Islamic cap.

Judge Andrew Lees rejected the defence’s claims that Chowdhury had been seeking to impress undercover police, and said that he had developed an extremist mindset by 2017 and was “focused and fanatical”.

“I am satisfied that you planned to commit an act of terrorism imminently,” Judge Lees said. “The danger you present is ongoing and it is not possible to say when that danger will abate.”

Chowdhury was jailed for life with a minimum term of 25 years for preparing acts of terrorism, and handed concurrent sentences of seven and three years for disseminating and possessing terrorist propaganda.

“Motivated by dreams of martyrdom for the cause of Islam, and inspired by preachers of hate like the former al-Qaeda spokesman Anwar al-Awlaki, the defendant was keen to take part in an attack on a high-profile and very public target in the UK,” said prosecutor Duncan Atkinson QC.

“The object was to unleash death and suffering on non-Muslim members of the public who happened to be present, using a firearm, sword and even a van as part of an attack. His preparations for such acts of terrorism took various forms.”

Mohiussunnath Chowdhury
Mohiussunnath Chowdhury (PA)

Chowdhury, who previously worked in a chicken shop and as an Uber driver, discussed potential targets – including a gay pride parade, Madame Tussauds and a London tourist bus – with undercover police officers who were posing as fellow jihadis.

He was arrested on 3 July 2019, three days before the Pride in London parade.

In the months after his release from prison, he engaged in physical training by acquiring wooden swords, practising stabbing techniques, enrolling on a shooting training course and obtaining a replica pistol while seeking a live firearm and ammunition.

While consuming both Islamist propaganda and material by right-wing extremists, he told numerous people that the Buckingham Palace attack really had been an act of terror and that he deliberately deceived the jurors who cleared him.

Woolwich Crown Court later heard how he met the Parsons Green bomber and other “like-minded brothers” while being held on remand at HMP Belmarsh.

While in jail, Chowdhury also drew pictures depicting a police officer being murdered outside Number 10 Downing Street and the 9/11 attacks.

Mohiussunnath Chowdhury started posting material indicating his extremist mindset on Instagram shortly after his release from prison in December 2018
Mohiussunnath Chowdhury started posting material indicating his extremist mindset on Instagram shortly after his release from prison in December 2018 (Metropolitan Police)

He told undercover police about a dream that he had had, in which he and a fellow prison inmate carried out an attack on an open-top bus.

Single and overweight, he had written down plans for when he arrived in heaven as a martyr – including meeting wives and decorating his “main palace” – and stuck them to his bedroom door.

Chowdhury, of Kirkwood Road in Luton, repeatedly praised other terror attacks and claimed to be radicalising children who came into the peri-peri chicken shop where he worked.

Chowdhury told a friend that all non-Muslims, even pregnant women and children, were “fair game” and that killing a soldier or police officer would be “instant paradise”.

On 20 June 2019 – six months after his acquittal – a covert recording showed him telling his sister, Sneha Chowdhury, that he was quitting his job.

When asked why, he told her: “I’m doing another attack bruv … I’m serious bro. It’s about time now.”

Simon Csoka QC, for the defence, told the sentencing hearing on Thursday that Chowdhury’s preparation for an attack had been “minimal” and that he had been “cooling off” before his arrest.

He said that an attack was not imminent, adding: “The furthest it could go would be that there were hypothetical targets, hypothetical means by which there could be an attack on any one of them, but no final view expressed by the defendant as to what he would do, when or how.”

Mr Csoka characterised his sparring with wooden swords and stabbing furniture with a knife as “play-fighting with his sister and a young cousin”. The claims were rejected by Judge Lees.

The siblings were arrested by counter-terrorism police in Luton on 3 July last year, and told that their home and Chowdhury’s car had been bugged for months.

Police believed Chowdhury had tried to distract them by being “open and talkative” in initial interviews, in the belief that a friend would launch an attack.

But after being told that “Mikael” was actually an undercover police officer, he became withdrawn and answered “no comment” to all questions.

Investigators had records of Chowdhury’s conversations, his internet activity, the extremist propaganda he had viewed and the purchases he had made in preparation for the attack.

He had viewed numerous speeches by al-Qaeda ideologue al-Awlaki and other hate preachers, together with Isis propaganda and guides on carrying out attacks with vehicles and knives.

In court earlier this year, Chowdhury denied planning attacks, claiming he felt pressured by the undercover officer who offered to help him and was just talking “jihad banter”.

He claimed he had only undertaken physical training to lose weight so he could find a wife.

But the jury rejected his explanations and found him guilty in February of preparing acts of terrorism, disseminating a terrorist publication and possessing terrorist information.

Chowdhury’s 26-year-old sister was convicted of one count of failing to disclose information about acts of terrorism and cleared of another count of the same charge. She will be sentenced at a later date.

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