July 27th, 2007 05:43 EST
Five men sentenced for possessing extremist material in the U.K.
Five young men have been sentenced to more than 13 years after being found guilty of possessing large amounts of extremist material to help them prepare for training camps overseas and to carry out terrorist acts.
Martyrdom and suicide bombings were a recurring theme in the material, designed to encourage people to die in the process of destroying the chosen targets of the authors.
Irfan Raja, aged 19, from Ilford; Aitzaz Zafar, 19, from Rochdale; Usman Malik, 20, from Wolverhampton; and Akber Butt, 20, from Southall, London, were convicted at the Old Bailey on 24 July of possessing articles for terrorist purposes.
The jury returned its verdict on Awaab Iqbal, 20, from Rochdale, yesterday.
The five had all denied charges of possessing articles for terrorist purposes, contrary to s57 of the Terrorism Act 2000.
Raja was sentenced to two years youth detention; Butt to 27 months youth detention; and Iqbal and Zafar to three years each. Malik received three years' imprisonment.
The court was told that the men possessed extremist propaganda in the form of books, videos, film clips and songs. The material was designed to help them become active jihadists - fighting against Western democracies, including the UK, who considered occupying Muslim lands. Their intention was to seek terrorist training at camps in Pakistan or Afghanistan. All five men possessed a particular text in one form or another - 'Join the Caravan', written by a central figure in the spread of the worldwide jihad, Abdullah Azzam. Azzam fought in Afghanistan and was killed there.
The court was told that Raja left home in February 2006 to join a group of people whose aim was to fight jihad. Unbeknown to his family, instead of going to school he went to Bradford by bus and met his co-defendants for the first time. Raja's bus ticket had been bought weeks earlier by Iqbal. Raja had spoken to his co-defendants, who were all students at the University of Bradford, via websites and chatrooms before actually meeting them in person when he arrived in Bradford. When Raja did not return home from school his family made calls in an attempt to find him. He had left his mobile phone and his house keys at his home, but taken his passport and exam certificates.
On the computer in his bedroom a martydom song in Urdu was found, which included the words: "Dear mother I need your prayer, tie a coffin on my head". The song went on to ask for a mother?s blessing. Raja's mother recalled that on the previous evening he had asked for her forgiveness. Raja's family had noticed signs of more extreme religious views, so after finding the song they contacted police believing he was embarking on terrorist activity.
Counter terrorism detectives attended Raja's home and found a note left by him under his mattress. It said:
"If not in this dunyad (world) we will meet in Jannat (paradise).. God willing" The note continues "the situation is such that you will live another 35 years maybe 40 when death will befall you, maybe then you will appreciate why I have gone now. At such news there are parents in the world that would phone their families and rejoice at the decision of their son"
There are two sections between which are designed to be two tear off slips. The first section asks the family not to be upset and not to blame each other, but to devote time to prayer.
The second section is a "PS" and states: "Just in case you think I am going to do something in this country you can rest easy that I am not. The conventional method of warfare is safer"
The final "PPS" states that if the family want to keep his letter then they should cut from the dotted line as "these people in the UK use everything against you"
Raja's computer contained a large amount of radical material. He, Malik and Butt probably collected the largest amounts of material. When he went to Bradford Raja took three CD-Roms which he called 'Philosophy Disc 1,2 and 3' containing radical material. Raja left the CD-Roms with his friends in Bradford after he decided to return home.
Searches of addresses in Bradford unearthed further evidence of the group's intentions. Analysis of computers seized, particularly in the form of MSN conversations, clearly showed their intentions to travel to join a group of jihadists. These conversations also included the justification for suicide bombings, the need for terrorist training and cover stories when travelling overseas. Extracts from the Al Qaeda Training Manual, including diagrams of triggering devices and a list of the most popular types of explosive, were also found on computers belonging to the men. Other documents discovered included the 'Military Guide to Terrorism in the 21st Century' and 'Becoming Physically Fit', a document detailing training for terrorist fighting.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke, head of the MPS 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.
"It is clear that these men were intent on committing terrorism overseas. The extremist material they all possessed was designed to assist them in that purpose, but their efforts were frustrated by police action at an early stage.
Many people helped police during the course of this inquiry, for which we are very grateful. As a result of this early intervention and assistance lives may have been saved."