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'Three musketeers' convicted for plotting terror strikes in UK

Last updated on: August 02, 2017 22:17 IST

Four British Muslims believed to be of Pakistani origin are facing lengthy jail terms after being found guilty of terrorism charges by a United Kingdom court on Wednesday.

Mohibur Rahman, Khobaib Hussain and Naweed Ali branded themselves as "The Three Musketeers" as part of a terror cell, which was busted after Britain's MI5 spies bugged Ali's car and found a pipe bomb and meat cleaver hidden in a sports bag in raids in the West Midlands region of England in August 2016.

All three, aged between 25 and 33, were convicted of one count of preparing for acts of terrorism under UK's Terrorism Act 2006 after a 23-week trial at London's Old Bailey court.

The jury took longer to declare a guilty verdict for the fourth suspect, 38-year-old Tahir Aziz, who allegedly bought a samurai sword from a sex shop for the terror cell.

All four men will be sentenced on Thursday.

Hussain and Ali had already been convicted of terrorist offences after they pleaded guilty to going to terror training camps in Pakistan in 2012.

Responding to the verdicts, Chief Superintendent Matt Ward, head of the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit, said: "Back in 2010 and 2011, they were inspired by Al Qaeda. Since they've come out of prison, they've been inspired by the Daesh (Islamic State) ideology.

"They shared lots of material regarding that ideology, lots of very violent material, they were trying to encourage others to join them on that journey."

He said the men had carefully planned and took steps to "avoid drawing attention to themselves", including leaving their mobile phones at home.

Besides a half-made pipe bomb and a meat cleaver, other items found in Ali's bag included an air pistol imitation hand gun with an empty magazine taped to the side of it, 11 more shotgun cartridges, a live unfired 9mm bullet, a roll of gaffer tape and a pair of black latex gloves.

It had emerged during the trial that security services and police officers had set up a fake courier company last year to gather evidence on the suspects.

An undercover police officer, known only as "Vincent", posed as the boss of the delivery company.

As part of the elaborate operation, officers hired premises in central Birmingham and drivers, who were given T-shirts with the Hero Couriers logo on them. Vincent then hired 25-year-old Hussain, paying him 100 pounds a day to deliver luggage to UK airports and other sites around the country.

Hussain was then tracked communicating with his other terror cell members using encrypted messaging service Telegram and met them at restaurants and parks to avoid detection.

They used a Musketeers image from the Disney cartoon as a logo for their messages, which included preparations for a knife attack similar to the June attack on London Bridge that claimed eight lives.

Sue Hemming, the head of the counter-terrorism division at the Crown Prosecution Service, said: "The prosecution was able to show that these men shared the same radical belief in violent jihad and had reached a stage where they were planning to take action.

"Recent attacks have demonstrated the kind of horror these defendants could have caused had they not been stopped."

The UK's counter-terrorism officials believe the case is one of the most significant plots they have thwarted in the last year.

IMAGE: Naweed Ali, Khobaib Hussain and Mohibur Rahman were convicted of terrorism offences. Photograph: West Midlands Police/Twitter

Aditi Khanna
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