Would-be UK bomber asked Twitter followers for target suggestions
A British couple was found guilty by London’s Central Criminal Court for plotting a terrorist attack in the city after the husband tweeted seeking advice on where to target on the tenth anniversary of the deadly 7/7 bombings. Both have been sentenced to life imprisonment: a minimum of 27 years for Mohammed Rehman, and a minimum of 25 years for his wife Sana Ahmed Khan.
A report by The Guardian explains the case: “Mohammed Rehman, 25, who secretly wed Sana Ahmed Khan, 24, intended to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 7/7 atrocities with blasts that would have inflicted mass casualties in either Westfield shopping centre, west London, or the London Underground.”
ISIS sympathizers, Rehman and Khan were arrested in May by West Midlands officers in a joint operation with the South East Counter Terrorism Unit.
Prosecutors told the Old Bailey court that the couple, who hadn’t told their families about their marriage, had carried out detailed research into how to make bombs. They also repeatedly accessed videos relating to the bombing of London on July 7, 2005, which resulted in 52 people being killed.
Assistant Chief Constable Marcus Beale, counter-terrorism lead for the West Midlands, said: “While we remain concerned about people travelling to Syria and the risk they pose should they return to the UK, we also consider the threat posed by UK-based individuals and groups who have never travelled or intended to do so.
“There’s no doubt Mohammed Rehman and Sana Khan were two such people and that the internet played a significant part in their radicalisation.
“Through proactive counter-terrorism policing, we were able to prevent them from causing any harm.
“We will continue, as part of a network across the country, to work tirelessly to spot extremist content online, so we can act early to keep the public safe.”
The police was able to foiled the couple’s plans after Rehman took to Twitter to ask for advice on which of those two targets he should choose: “Westfield shopping centre or London underground?” Rehman asked. “Any advice would be appreciated greatly.” The account has been subsequently removed, as it was posted via Rehman’s glaringly revealing username ‘Silent Bomber’, @InService2Godd. As if that weren’t enough, his Twitter bio read: “Learn how to make powerful explosives from the comfort of ones’ bedroom.”
“Plus I don’t need an army, all I need is my explosive vest and a beautiful area full of crowded twats like you LOL,” Rehman tweeted on another occasion.
Besides Rehman’s awkward approach to social media aside, his intentions were deadly serious. According to prosecutors, upon further investigation, police discovered chemicals at their home which could be used in the creation of a bomb, including 22 pounds of the highly explosive chemical Urea Nitrate and other bomb-making paraphernalia.
Footage of Rehman carrying out test explosions with homemade bombs in their garden was also discovered. He also filmed one such test bomb on his phone and sent it to his wife, Khan, who helped purchase some of the chemical explosives used. She also transferred over £14,000 into Rehman’s bank account.
“The intention to carry out some form of terrorism attack was clear from the threatening statements made in Rehman’s tweets. It was these tweets that led to his and his wife’s arrest,” Susan Hemming, Head of the Counter-Terrorism Division, said in statement.
“The pair had been very close to carrying out an attack, all they required was to purchase the chemicals to make a detonator,” Hemming added. “There is little doubt that, had Rehman and Ahmed Khan not been stopped when they were, they would have attempted to carry out an act of terrorism in London.”
The would-be terrorist’s tweets were spotted by an undercover investigator, who engaged him in a conversation on Twitter. Police made their move when they were confident that Rehman’s intentions were real, pursuing and subsequently arresting him whilst he was in a convenience store.
Even though Khan said she was not aware of her husband’s Twitter activity, statements from the police claim that the internet played a major part in the couple’s radicalization.
Assistant chief constable Laura Nicholson, head of the south-east counter-terrorism unit, said, “It is clear that Rehman and Khan shared a radical and violent extremist ideology. They actively accessed extremist material on the Internet and used social media to develop and share their views as they prepared acts of terrorism.” The couple are due to be sentenced later this week.
The couple immersed themselves in ISIS and Al Qaeda propaganda and idolised 7/7 bomber Shehzad Tanweer.