Syria terror charge pair sentenced

Published: Friday 5th December 2014 by The News Editor

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Sentencing is to resume today of two young British men who admitted spending eight months in Syria fighting alongside an al Qaida-linked terrorist group.

Childhood friends Mohammed Nahin Ahmed and Yusuf Zubair Sarwar, both 22, from the Handsworth area of Birmingham, fled to the war-torn country in May last year after contacting Islamic extremists.

They returned in January only after their families put pressure on them to come home.

Officers from West Midlands Police’s counter-terrorism unit were waiting for them at Heathrow Airport, where they were arrested.

A trial due to start in July at London’s Woolwich Crown Court was abandoned when they each admitted one count of engaging in conduct in preparation of terrorism acts contrary to Section 5 of the Terrorism Act.

Sarwar’s family reported him missing to police in May last year after they found a handwritten letter from him revealing he had fled to Syria.

The letter addressed to his mother Majida Sarwar detailed his intention to ”do jihad” by joining a terrorist group called Kataib al Muhajireen (KaM) – later renamed Kateeba al-Kawthar.

The letter also contained money to pay off his debts and instructions to end his mobile phone contract.

In the weeks before leaving the UK, he faked documents to convince his family he was travelling to Turkey as part of a two-week trip organised by Birmingham City University, where he was a part-time computer science student.

Prosecutor Brian Altman QC told the court: ”Without the mother’s actions, the police would not have been in a position to be waiting for the men on their return.”

Ahmed had told his family he was going on holiday with Sarwar.

In fact the men had completed a carefully planned one-way trip to the Syrian battleground via Turkey, after researching and discussing jihad, martyrdom and the enemies of Islam, Mr Altman said.

In one text exchange, Ahmed urged Sarwar not to kill any innocent people or commit suicide, the court heard.

A police search of the men’s homes while the pair were in Syria revealed an online conversation between Ahmed and a Swedish national fighting with the KaM, during which Ahmed said he wanted to join the terrorist group.

Ahmed was told by another Danish Islamist extremist that jihadis could return to their home countries in the EU to carry out tasks.

Ahmed, who was born in Bangladesh, moved to Britain as a child, while Sarwar, who is of Pakistani descent, was born in Britain.

After their arrest, the pair told police that they travelled to Syria for humanitarian reasons.

But officers found ”thousands” of warzone-related images of the men with guns on a digital camera carried by the pair into the UK.

The initial search of their homes revealed images of Islamic propaganda on both of their computers, including images of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) flags, shaheed (martyr) literature and several texts which are linked to the jihadi mindset.

Officers also found social media and email conversations between the pair and Islamic extremists.

The sentencing process began and was adjourned in July and resumes today.

Published: Friday 5th December 2014 by The News Editor

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