Wednesday 21 February 2018

Husband and wife guilty of planning massive terror attack on London to coincide with July 7 anniversary

Mohammed Rehman and Sana Ahmed Khan who were convicted at the Old Bailey on December 29, 2015, of preparing for acts of terrorism. Photo: AFP Photo/ Thames Valley Police
Mohammed Rehman and Sana Ahmed Khan who were convicted at the Old Bailey on December 29, 2015, of preparing for acts of terrorism. Photo: AFP Photo/ Thames Valley Police

An aspiring suicide bomber and his secret wife have been found guilty of planning a massive terror attack on London to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the July 7 atrocity.

Going by the name Silent Bomber, Islamic extremist Mohammed Rehman, 25, took to Twitter in May asking for suggestions on which target to choose - Westfield shopping centre or the Tube.

With money from his wife Sana Ahmed Khan, 24, he stockpiled the chemicals needed to make a huge bomb at his family home in Reading and even filmed himself setting off a small explosion in his back garden.

The prosecution said Rehman was just days away from completing the device which would have caused multiple casualties in the capital if he had not been stopped by anti-terror police.

Following a trial at the Old Bailey, the couple were found guilty of preparing an act of terrorism around May 28 this year.

Rehman was also convicted of possessing an article for terrorist purposes.

The jury of seven women and five men found the pair guilty after three days of deliberations.

Rehman, wearing a purple jumper, gold shirt and gold tie, and Khan, in a purple jumper and brown scarf, showed no emotion as the verdicts were read out, but Khan glanced up to the public gallery as they were led off to the cells.

Prosecutor Tony Badenoch QC had said the pair shared a "common interest" in violent and extreme Islamic ideology and had repeatedly researched the 7/7 bombers.

They also had a keen interest in Islamic State, and Rehman's online research showed he approved and "wished to play his own part".

Khan helped fuel his violent ambition by paying for chemicals bought on eBay.

Counter-terrorism officers foiled the plot after an undercover investigator spotted Rehman's tweet about potential targets.

On May 12, Rehman used a profile picture of Jihadi John to post: "Westfield shopping centre or London underground? Any advice would be appreciated greatly."

It was accompanied by a link to the al Qaida uncensored media release about the 7/7 bombings.

The same day, he trawled YouTube for London bombings and Shehzad Tanweer - one of the 7/7 bombers who he referred to as his "beloved predecessor".

He also told a Twitter user: "Why don't you head to the London Underground on the 7th July if you got the balls."

The undercover investigator, who used the name Abu Mohammed, engaged with Rehman in a private conversation in which the defendant asked him "how dumb these Kuffar are lol".

Rehman confided that he was preparing for martyrdom and asked the officer if he wanted to join him or go the "lone wolf route".

Jurors were told his intentions could not have been clearer when he tweeted: "Now I just make explosives in preparation for kuffar lol and when I've made the required amount I'll be wearing them on my chest."

Police swooped to arrest Rehman and Khan on May 28 - just over a month before the anniversary of the 7/7 attacks which killed 52 Londoners.

Rehman fled his home to a nearby Co-op where he was stopped by armed police, despite trying to kick and punch his way out.

He insisted there was nothing dangerous in his home, despite having tweeted that he had "a surprise waiting for them".

He also claimed to have rigged up a bomb which could be triggered at the touch of a button at his bedside, saying: "Nobody gets in the way of my jihad."

What officers found were a Jihadi John-style hunting knife and chemicals for a massive bomb which was days from completion.

Officers seized more than 10kg of urea nitrate - a highly explosive chemical - which if detonated would have caused multiple fatalities in a public place, jurors were told.

In police interview, Rehman admitted making and testing explosives but denied intending to harm anyone, saying he had used Twitter to draw attention to himself in the hope he would be arrested and put in custody.

Khan refused to answer questions from police but admitted having conversations with Rehman about IS and jihad but denied knowing about his Twitter activities.

Khan, who studied to degree level at the University of Greenwich in south-east London, had known Rehman for 10 years. She kept their Islamic marriage a secret from her family who did not approve of drug-taking divorcee Rehman, and they lived separately with their parents and siblings.

Mr Badenoch told jurors that Rehman frequently had violent arguments with his family, causing his fearful father to spend time away and even sleep rough to avoid him.

Rehman, of Radstock Road, Reading, and Khan, of Hutton Close, Reading, denied wrongdoing but refused to give evidence in the trial.

On July 7 2005, 52 people died and more than 770 were injured in the worst terrorist atrocity in the UK since Lockerbie in 1988 and the country's first suicide bomb attack.

Following the verdicts Susan Hemming, head of the Crown Prosecution Service's (CPS) counter-terrorism division, said the intent to carry out a terrorist attack was "clear" from Rehman's threatening tweets, and that the couple had carried out "huge amounts of research" online.

She said: "The pair had been very close to carrying out an attack, all they required was to purchase the chemicals to make a detonator.

"There is little doubt that, had Rehman and Ahmed Khan not been stopped when they were, they would have attempted to carry out an act of terrorism in London."

A sentencing hearing will begin on Wednesday when the judge, Mr Justice Baker, will hear mitigation from the defendants' legal teams.

Sentencing will take place on Wednesday or Thursday.

Following the hearing, a woman, thought to be Khan's sister, left the Old Bailey in tears, her head covered by a newspaper.

Rehman and Khan were caught following a joint investigation by West Midlands Police and Thames Valley Police.

Assistant Chief Constable Laura Nicholson, head of the South East Counter Terrorism Unit and Regional Organised Crime Unit, said the pair were "dangerous individuals" who represented a "genuine threat".

She said: "It is clear that Rehman and Khan shared a radical and violent extremist ideology. They actively accessed extremist material on the internet and used social media to develop and share their views as they prepared acts of terrorism.

"The removal of access to terrorist and violent extremist material on the internet is a critical element in preventing radicalisation and terrorist atrocities and we will continue to work with partners to remove such material whenever it is discovered."

Assistant Chief Constable Marcus Beale, counter terrorism lead for the West Midlands, said: "Whilst we remain concerned about people travelling to Syria and the risk they pose should they return to the UK, we also consider the threat posed by UK-based individuals and groups who have never travelled or intended to do so.

"There's no doubt Mohammed Rehman and Sana Khan were two such people and that the internet played a significant part in their radicalisation."

Online Editors

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News