British Fighter Jailed for 12 Years
A man from west London has been jailed after returning from a terrorist training camp in Syria.
Imran Khawaja, 27 of Southall, Middlesex pleaded guilty to preparing acts of terrorism, attending a terrorist training camp, weapons training and possession of an article for terrorist purposes.
Appearing at Woolwich Crown Court today (6 February) Khawaja was sentenced by the judge to 12 years in prison, with an extended sentence of five years.
Asim Ali, 33 yrs (06.03.81) of Spikes Bridge Road, Ealing was sentenced to 21 months after pleading guilty to entering into a funding arrangement for the purposes of terrorism, contrary to Section 17 of the Terrorism Act 2000.
Tahir Bhatti, 45 yrs (18.01.70) of Clarke Way, Watford was sentenced to 21 months after pleading guilty to assisting an offender contrary to Section 4(1) of the Criminal Law Act 1967.
On 26 January 2014, Imran Khawaja left from Heathrow Airport and travelled to a training camp in Syria. It was here that he joined 'Rayat al Tawheed' a group which became aligned with Islamic State.
The group began posting violent propaganda online in an attempt to persuade others to come out and join them. In response, the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command (SO15), who worked closely with MI5, began an investigation.
Khawaja features in one of the group's promotional videos 'Five Star Jihad' where he is introduced as 'Abu Daigham'. The video presents a vision of daily life at the Rayat al Tawheed training camp, encouraging others to join them.
Khawaja is also seen in a disturbing video posted on social media which includes a bag of severed heads. He appears in the footage with his face covered picking up one of the heads from the bag and showing it to the camera. The description posted with the video is 'British ISIS fighter Abu Daigham al-Britani with Government soldier's head Syria.'
In May 2014, the group put out a message on social media, designed to deliberately mislead authorities, claiming that Abu Daigham al-Britani had been killed, alongside an image of two masked men holding rifles standing in front of a tank. This news of his death was picked up and reported by the British media.
However, Khawaja was not dead. He was in fact making his way back to the UK. On 3 June 2014, Khawaja and his cousin Tahir Bhatti were arrested by SO15 officers as they entered the UK at Dover port in a hire car.
Commander Richard Walton, Head of the SO15 Counter Terrorism Command said:
"The images and video of Khawaja in Syria are horrific and deeply disturbing. He was a senior figure in Rayat al Tawheed, a group aligned to the Islamic State terrorist group that celebrated its terrorist acts through social media back to the UK.
"Khawaja chose to become a terrorist, engaged in weapons training in a terrorist training camp and faked his own death in order to conceal his entry back into the UK.
"This sentence sends a powerful message to those who plan or prepare acts of terrorism overseas or here in the UK.
"We have seen how parts of Syria have become lawless, where murder, torture and crimes against humanity are becoming almost routine.
"One of the best ways we can respond to these crimes is to convict terrorists through the rule of law."
A number of addresses linked to Khawaja and Bhatti were searched as part of the investigation. Messages and photographs were recovered which proved Khawaja had engaged in terrorist training whilst in Syria, which involved learning how to handle military weapons.
On 13 June 2014, Imran Khawaja, unemployed was charged with the following: Preparation of acts of Terrorism contrary to section 5 of the Terrorism Act 2006; = Attending a Terrorist Training camp contrary section 8 of the Terrorism Act 2006; = Weapons training contrary to section 54 of the Terrorism Act 2000; = Possession of an Article for Terrorist Purposes contrary to section 57 (1) of the Terrorism Act 2000; = Solicitation to murder contrary to section 4 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.
Tahir Bhatti was charged with assisting to commit terrorist acts contrary to section 5 of the Terrorism Act 2006.
A second man was also identified by officers involved in Khawaja's support network in the UK. Asim Ali was arrested on 14 August 2014 at his home on suspicion of assisting committing acts of terrorism and suspicion of terrorist funding.
Officers believe Ali played a pivotal role providing support and assistance to Khawaja. He set up messaging services and provided him with ?300 from his bank account before he left the UK.
Ali was charged on 15 August 2014 with the intention of assisting Imran Khawaja and others to commit acts of terrorism.
On 12 December 2014, Khawaja pleaded guilty to Preparation of acts of Terrorism contrary to section 5 of the Terrorism Act 2006; = Attending a Terrorist Training camp contrary section 8 of the Terrorism Act 2006; = Weapons training contrary to section 54 of the Terrorism Act 2000; = Possession of an Article for Terrorist Purposes contrary to section 57 (1) of the Terrorism Act 2000.
A charge of solicitation to murder contrary to section 4 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 has been ordered to lay on file.
On Tuesday 23 December 2014, Ali pleaded guilty to entering into a funding arrangement for the purposes of terrorism, contrary to Section 17 of the Terrorism Act 2000.
On 20 January, Bhatti pleaded guilty to assisting an offender under Section 4(1) of the Criminal Law Act 1967.