British students jailed for terrorism plans


A judge accused four British-born students and a schoolboy who planned to fight a holy war against British soldiers in Afghanistan of abusing their country's freedoms yesterday as he jailed them for a total of 13 years.The Recorder of London said the young men had enjoyed the protection of Britain's liberties but had been prepared to break its laws after becoming "intoxicated" with the language of jihad.




Police found radical material on the young men's computers which included an image in which their heads had been superimposed on those of the September 11 hijackers.

Mohammed Irfan Raja was 17 when he ran away from home to join four first-year students at Bradford University, leaving his parents a note.

He had made contact with Usman Malik, 21, Aitzaz Zafar, 20, Awaab Iqbal, 20, and Akbar Butt, 20, through an internet chatroom while at sixth form college in Ilford, Essex, and the gang hatched a plan to travel abroad to train for "jihad".

Raja's note, left under his mattress, read: "If not in this dunyad [world] we will meet in Jannat [the Garden of Paradise], Inshallah [god willing]." A PS said he was going abroad and ended: "Now smile."

Raja's note: Click to enlarge

 The Recorder of London, Judge Peter Beaumont, told the men it was clear they intended to fight British soldiers in Afghanistan.

Sentencing the young men, he told them a "message has to be sent" and added: "Each of you is British. You were born here, your families lived here, you went to school and university here, you hold British passports.

"You live under the protection of its laws, which give you freedom of speech and religious observance, yet each of you were prepared to break its laws. Why?

"Because in my judgment you were intoxicated by the extremist nature of the material each one of you collected - the songs, images and the language of violent jihad - and so carried away by that material were you that each of you crossed the line.

"That is exactly what the people that peddle this material want to achieve and exactly what you did."

He said the sentences had to be a deterrent. "To stop them and you and to protect this country and its citizens abroad, a message has to be sent."

Raja, now 19, was given two years' youth detention, Malik was sent to prison for three years, Zafar and Iqbal were given three years' detention, and Butt was given 27 months' detention.

It is the first time the Crown Prosecution Service has secured a conviction for possessing material useful for terrorism under the Terrorism Act 2000.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke, head of the Metropolitan Police counter terrorism command, said: "This was not an adolescent fantasy. These five young men had decided to become active jihadists and to seek training at camps in Pakistan or Afghanistan."

Akbar Butt, 20, Awaab Iqbal, 20, Usman Malik, 21, and Aitzaz Zafar, 20

Iqbal and Zafar, both from Rochdale, Lancs, shared a student house in Bradford, where Iqbal studied science with Malik, from Wolverhampton, West Midlands. Also among the gang was Butt, a fellow student from Southall, west London. All were followers of Abdullah Azzam, the originator of the Afghan jihad, who was killed in 1989.

Police were called in by Raja's distraught parents who eventually persuaded him to return home.

Examining the young men's computers revealed MSN chatroom conversations justifying suicide bombings and talking of the need for terrorist training and cover stories when travelling overseas.

Also found were extracts from an al-Qa'eda training manual, including a list of the most popular types of explosive and diagrams of triggering devices. Other documents discovered included a "military guide to terrorism in the 21st century".

Fellow students said the gang had tried to take over a meeting of the university Islamic society and had scribbled the word "jihad" in chalk on the wall of their student house.

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