Birmingham pair plead guilty to Syria terror charges
Two young men from Handsworth have admitted lying to parents about going on holiday to Turkey, only to spend months with an al Qaeda linked group fighting in Syria.
Yusuf Sarwar of Antrobus Road and Nahin Ahmed of Farcroft Avenue - both aged 22 - pleaded guilty to preparing for acts of terrorism, at Woolwich Crown Court today.
In May last year the men purchased one-way tickets to Turkey and later went on to cross the Syrian border. When they returned to the UK after eight months away, officers from the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit were waiting at Heathrow to arrest them.
Traces of military grade explosives were found on their clothing and pictures on their camera showed them brandishing weapons. Detectives used satellite imaging to establish from the photographs that the men had been in and around Aleppo - one of the main conflict zones.
The police investigation also showed that Ahmed had planned to travel for "jihad" for over a year. The unemployed former postal worker had considered going to Yemen and had sought advice from a fighter in Syria and from extremists in Denmark and Sweden.
The friends - who have known each other since their days at Secondary school - left home in May last year, telling their parents they were going on a holiday to Turkey.
Sarwar had convinced his family the trip was organised by the university where he was a part time computer science student. He even designed a fake leaflet to make his plans look genuine. Shortly afterwards his mother found a handwritten note explaining the real reason for the journey was to engage in "jihad" with a group called Kataib Al Muhajireen. He also left instructions to cancel his mobile phone contract and money to settle outstanding debts.
Mrs Sarwar took the letter to police and reported her son missing.
Assistant Chief Constable Marcus Beale, senior officer for counter terrorism in the West Midlands, said: "These young men went to considerable lengths to hide their plans from their families, who have since suffered a great deal of distress.
"Itís not easy to know everything that a family member is doing all of the time, but we encourage parents to hold a healthy interest and curiosity into who their children mix with and who seems to hold a strong influence over them.
"Crucially, if families are worried that a member is thinking of travelling to Syria it is very important that they tell the authorities as soon as possible.
"The police and other agencies can offer support to help safeguard those who are vulnerable to radicalisers and the sooner we can intervene the better chance we have of preventing young people from becoming embroiled in criminal behaviour.
"Police canít do this alone. We need a whole community effort."
They will be sentenced at a later date.