Wednesday 16 January 2019

Brothers who wanted to 'become martyrs' for Isis in Syria practiced with paintballing

A still from a video showing the Alsyed brothers at the paintball camp where they practiced to fight alongside Isis (Metropolitan Police)
A still from a video showing the Alsyed brothers at the paintball camp where they practiced to fight alongside Isis (Metropolitan Police)

Two brothers with their “hearts set” on joining Isis used paintballing to prepare for combat alongside the terrorist group, a court heard.

Yousif Alsyed, 18, sent an encrypted message saying he wanted to “become a martyr” in Syria or Libya before his school raised the alarm.

Together with his older brother Ahmed, 20, he was part of a group of at least five teenagers accused of supporting Isis, Woolwich Crown Court in east London, heard.

Ahmed, of west London, was jailed for four-and-a-half years after pleading guilty to the collection of terrorist information, preparation of terrorist acts and dissemination of terrorist publications at a previous hearing.

Yousif, who admitted the preparation of terrorist acts and dissemination of terrorist publications, will be sentenced at a later date.

"It is patent to me that the brothers' intention, once they had joined the terrorist group, was to fight alongside it as they had invested time in training in the UK, including spending time at a paintballing camp and joining a gym," said Commander Clarke Jarrett, of London's Metropolitan Police after the hearing.

"The brothers shared with each other gory videos and images glorifying Daesh," he added They had their hearts set on joining their fight but our investigation stopped them."

Footage recovered from Ahmed's phone showed him posing wearing combat fatigues and making a hand gesture associated with Isis at the paintball camp in Cobham, Surrey.

"This is a message to everyone,” he told the camera. "If we do not come back safe and sound, look after our families."

Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism command started investigating the cell in spring 2016, identifying a person using the name Abu Ibrahim who was using the encrypted messaging app Telegram to discuss travelling to Syria.

In one message, he said he wanted to "become a martyr", while another claimed he was just waiting for the "green light to travel".

Digital forensics officers established identified the sender as Yousif and started tracking the group, arresting the teenager and his brother in August 2016 as they arrived back in the UK from a holiday in Egypt.

After seizing their mobile phones, investigators found a “significant quantity” of terrorist propaganda and Telegram conversations between the brothers and a figure in Yemen discussing plans to join Isis in Syria or Libya.

The investigation expanded to look at three “like-minded” boys who the brothers were in contact with – Mohammed Ali, now 18, a 16-year-old boy from south London and a 15-year-old boy from east London.

But the Alsyed brothers were released and acquired new phones, which were found to contain more communication on potential travel when they were arrested for a second time in February last year.

Police swooped after finding that Ali and the 16-year-old boy had booked flights from London Gatwick to Instanbul later that month – a common step on the route used by hundreds of British Isis supporters who journeyed to Syria after the group’s foundation in 2014.

Detectives seized their passports and mounted searches that found mobile phones and laptops filled with messages. They also had camping equipment.

The group was subsequently charged with terror offences.

Their three associates have already been sentenced. Ali, from south-west London, was jailed for four years and two months for the preparation of terrorist acts and the collection of terrorist information at the Old Bailey in November.

The 16-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was jailed for two years and eight months for the preparation of terrorist acts at the same hearing.

The 15-year-old boy, who was not charged with trying to join Isis, pleaded guilty to collecting terrorist information and disseminating terrorist publications at Westminster Youth Court in June,

Rather than a prison sentence, he was sentenced to a one-year Intensive Referral Order, forcing him to take part in a de-radicalisation programme, be subject to a curfew, monitored by a youth worker and carry out 40 hours of reparation work.

Mr Jarrett urged anyone with information on suspicious activity to report it to the confidential anti-terror hotline.

"This is an investigation that began with some intelligence and from that detectives were able to identify Yousif Alsyed, then his brother and three others, who were immersed in various terrorist offences,” he said.

"If anyone has suspicions about someone who is behaving oddly, sending messages that seem extreme or anything else that strikes them as not quite right, please act on your instinct and report it to police."

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