Death-fake jihadist to be sentenced

Published: Thursday 5th February 2015 by The News Editor

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A British jihadist, who posed for a picture holding a severed head in Syria and then faked his own death to sneak home, is facing years behind bars.

Keen bodybuilder Imran Khawaja, formerly of Southall, London, spent six months in the war-torn country last year, spending time in a terrorist training camp.

While there, the 27-year-old had asked his taxi driver cousin Tahir Bhatti to go cross country to Bulgaria to pick him up and drive him back to the UK, avoiding the well-worn jihadist route via flights to and from Turkey.

As he was en route, Khawaja was widely reported to have died on the battlefield in Syria after the terrorist group Rayat al-Tawheed falsely announced his death.

Khawaja, who went by the nom de guerre of Abu Daigham al Baritani, and Bhatti were arrested by police on June 3 last year as they reached the UK port of Dover in Kent.

The pair will appear at Woolwich Crown Court today for the start of a two-day sentencing hearing alongside a third defendant, Asim Ali.

Khawaja has admitted preparation of terrorist acts on or before January 26 last year as well as attending a terrorism training camp between January and June 4 last year.

He has also admitted receiving weapons training and possessing a firearm for terrorist use during a hearing at the Old Bailey.

Ali, 33, from Ealing, west London has pleaded guilty to making £300 available to Khawaja while knowing or having reason to suspect it might be used for the purposes of terrorism.

And Bhatti, 44, of no fixed abode, who is of Pakistani origin, has pleaded guilty assisting an offender.

At an earlier hearing, prosecutor Mark Dawson said that by March 18 last year, Bhatti, who was referred to in a coded message as “butterbean”, was well aware Khawaja was in Syria and that he was clearly training with a view to fighting in Syria.

The court was shown three photographs from Khawaja’s phone that allegedly reflected what Bhatti knew about his activities.

The first showed Khawaja in battlefield clothes and a balaclava sitting on a tank with a rifle.

Another showed him with a child sporting a very distinctive tassled hat – the same hat and clothing worn in a number of postings by a terrorist group.

The last photo showed the defendant at a training camp with an assault rifle, the court heard.

By June last year, Bhatti had convinced his cousin to return to the UK saying his parents were not well and he should come home.

The three men are expected to be handed jail sentences tomorrow.

Published: Thursday 5th February 2015 by The News Editor

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