A man has been jailed for life for planning to commit a terrorist attack, as the Met’s Counter Terrorism Commander urges the public to remain vigilant as coronavirus restrictions are eased.
Sahayb Aweys Munye Abu, 27 (15.4.93), of east London, ordered weapons, equipment and clothing online in preparation for an attack, while visiting websites with Daesh material and sharing his extremist views with people online over several months.
However, MI5 and police were actively investigating Abu. He was detained during a proactive armed police operation led by the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command that was launched after he ordered a large sword online that he was planning to use in his attack.
On Friday, 12 March, Abu was found guilty of preparation of terrorist acts (contrary to section 5 of the Terrorism Act 2006), by an 11-1 majority verdict after a trial at the Old Bailey.
At the same court on Tuesday, 13 April, he was sentenced to life imprisonment, to serve a minimum of 19 years.
Commander Richard Smith, head of the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command, said: “Over several months, Abu sought to obtain weapons and the equipment needed to commit a terrorist attack. He is an extremely dangerous individual but thanks to the efforts of counter-terrorism officers and MI5, he will now spend a considerable time behind bars where he poses no risk to public safety.
“This is a prime example of how our officers and the security services are working together to keep people safe. Every day, counter-terrorism teams are identifying and targeting individuals and groups with terrorist intent.”
The police investigation started in March 2020 after concerns were raised about Abu’s extremist mindset.
Over several weeks in May and June 2020, Abu made enquiries about and purchased a number of items that gave investigators cause for further concern – a lock knife, a ballistic vest, two balaclavas, fingerless gloves, a camo-print fisherman’s hat with face and neck cover, and finally a large sword which he asked to be sharpened.
During the course of the investigation, an undercover officer met and befriended Abu online and they met in person on two occasions. During their conversations, Abu spoke about obtaining firearms.
Abu was arrested on 9 July during an armed policing operation.
His electronic devices were seized and analysed and officers found dozens of messages, including video and voice messages, where Abu recited lyrics which reflected his extremist views.
In one song, he refers to himself as a “straight ISIS supporter”, talks about “heads rolling on the ground”, and says “got my suicide vest, one click boom and I’ll see you later.”
On the day of his arrest, he posted a message in a chat group saying “we need a 9/11 2.0” – referring to the terrorist attack that targeted the United States on 11 September 2001.
His internet search and browsing history also showed that he visited websites about Daesh, and accessed and downloaded Daesh propaganda and other extremist content.
When interviewed by police, Abu said the items he had purchased were for display purposes and for use in parody ‘drill’ music videos.
Commander Smith added: “This investigation took place during the Covid-19 pandemic. Our focus on keeping the public safe from terrorism has not wavered during that time.
“The recent easing of coronavirus restrictions means that people will start going out more in public – to see family and friends, to shop and to visit places.
“The threat from terrorism has not gone away and we would urge people to remain vigilant and act if they see anything suspicious by reporting it to the police. You won’t be wasting police time. The public has a key role to play in helping the police tackle terrorism and save lives.”
If you see or hear something suspicious, trust your instincts and report it to the police. In an emergency always call 999. You can also report your concerns online, in confidence, at www.gov.uk/ACT
To learn more about the role that you can play in defeating terrorism, free online training is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/act-awareness-elearning