Birmingham men jailed for Syria-related terrorism offences

Two men from Birmingham have been jailed after admitting they joined an extremist group fighting in Syria. They are the first in the West Midlands to be sentenced for this type of offence.

Nahin Ahmed, of Farcroft Avenue, and Yusuf Sarwar, of Antrobus Road, both aged 22, were given sentences of 12 years and eight months each as well as extended licences of five years. They will serve two thirds in custody.

His Honour Judge Michael Topolski QC described the actions of the pair as "fundamentalist who became interested in and deeply committed to violent extremism" during a hearing at Woolwich Crown Court today (5 December).

He told unemployed Ahmed and part time student Sarwar they had "taken determined steps to prepare and travel to Syria to seek out and engage in armed combat".

Today’s sentences come after the two pleaded guilty in July to travelling to Syria and signing up with an al Qaeda associated fighting group.

Both men had told their families they were going on a holiday to Turkey but Sarwar’s mother became suspicious and reported her son missing to police.

Eight months later, in January of this year, the two returned to the UK. Officers from the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit were waiting at Heathrow to arrest them.

Detective Chief Superintendent Sue Southern, head of West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit, said: "This case typifies the challenges both police and families are facing when it comes to young people being influenced to join the conflict in Syria or Iraq.

"These two men had no previous connections to extremist organisations and no police record. They were not known to us.

"However, one of them was clearly being influenced by extremists he was talking to online, and he in turn was radicalising his friend.

"They both deceived their families and by the time we were contacted serious offences had already been committed. We had no choice but to arrest and charge the pair on their return.

"As hard as it might be for families, it is vital they come forward and report concerns to us as soon as possible.

"Police and other agencies can offer support to help safeguard those who are vulnerable to radicalisers. The sooner we can intervene the better chance we have of preventing young people from becoming embroiled in the conflict and facing potential prosecution."