Former Taliban fighter looking for extremist recruits given life sentence
A former Taliban fighter who ran a "recruitment centre" for home-grown extremists to go to Afghanistan to kill British troops was today given four life sentences.
Munir Farooqi, 54, was at the centre of a plot to radicalise and persuade vulnerable young men to "fight, kill and die" in a jihad in Afghanistan, Manchester Crown Court heard.
Pakistani-born British citizen Farooqi, of Victoria Terrace, Longsight, Manchester, was captured in a police sting when two undercover anti-terrorism police officers infiltrated his group wearing secret bugging devices.
Farooqi, who used the email address firstname.lastname@example.org, bragged to the officers how he had fought with the Taliban and told them they could become "martyrs" for the cause.
He also found "amusement" in the sight of the flag-draped coffins of fallen allied troops returning from Afghanistan.
Today he was given four life sentences and told he must serve a minimum of nine years before he can be considered for parole after being convicted of preparing for acts of terrorism, three counts of soliciting to murder and one count of dissemination of terrorist publications, following a four month trial.
Passing sentence Mr Justice Richard Henriques said: "You are in my judgment a very dangerous man, an extremist, a fundamentalist with a determination to fight abroad."
Farooqi had used his experiences fighting with the Taliban as a "tool of recruitment" to run the "Manchester recruitment centre" from Islamic book stalls in the city.
His operation was, "sophisticated, ruthless and well honed," the judge said, with Farooqi dedicating his life to the recruitment of men willing to fight abroad in the name of extremist Islam.
"Their victims would be allied forces, including British soldiers," Mr Justice Henriques added.
"You found the images of coffins draped in American flags as a source of great amusement.
"As a resident of this country you owe allegiance to the Crown, that appears to have escaped your attention."
Farooqi was inspired to head to Afghanistan by the allied invasion which followed the 9/11 terror attacks.
He joined the Taliban as an "active terrorist" but was captured and jailed in November 2001.
But by May 2002 he was released by the authorities in Pakistan and headed back to Manchester.
He turned the family four-bedroom home in Longsight into a "production centre" for propaganda, with a collection of 50,000 extremist books, DVDs and CDs.
The father-of-three ran a Dawah, Islamic book stall, on Longsight market in Manchester to spread the word of Islam, with the help of co-defendants Matthew Newton, 29, and Israr Malik, 23.
In October 2008 the stall was approached separately by two men, known only as Ray and Simon, who pretended to be at a low ebb in their lives and interested in Islam - perfect for recruitment.
In fact the two were undercover police from the North West Counter Terrorism Unit, wearing secret recording devices as they were "groomed" and "brainwashed".
British Muslim convert Newton, a former estate agent, and petty crook, Malik, both became involved in the plan to radicalise and recruit the officers.
Malik, 23, of Bowden Avenue, Fallowfield, Manchester, became a "highly radicalised, true disciple" of his mentor.
He was convicted of preparing for acts of terrorism and two counts of soliciting to murder.
He was given an indeterminate sentence for public protection and told he must serve a minimum of five years before parole is considered but will only be released if he is deemed no longer a danger to the public.
Newton, a former British Army recruit, also held a deep misplaced loyalty to Farooqi after converting to Islam and was deeply anti-Semitic.
Newton, of Stockport Road, Levenshulme, Manchester, was convicted of preparing for acts of terrorism and two counts of dissemination of terrorist publications and jailed or six years.
Detective Chief Superintendent Tony Porter, head of the North West Counter Terrorism Unit, said: "This was an extremely challenging case, both to investigate and successfully prosecute at court, because we did not recover any blueprint, attack plan or endgame for these men.
"However, what we were able to prove was their ideology. These men were involved in an organised attempt in Manchester to recruit men to fight, kill and die in either Afghanistan or Pakistan by persuading them it was their religious duty.
"For young men who feel angry at the world, these powerful messages can be very persuasive."
Munir Farooqi's son, Harris, 28, was cleared yesterday by the jury of a single count of engaging in conduct in preparation for terrorism.
He sat in the back of the public gallery as his father was jailed for life.