Syrian doctor had bomb materials in Leith flat

Faris al-Khori admitted having the explosive ingredients. Picture: Police Scotland

Faris al-Khori admitted having the explosive ingredients. Picture: Police Scotland

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A MASSIVE hoard of ingredients for explosives and instructions on how to prepare bombs were discovered by chance after a tower block’s rubbish chute was set alight.

Hundreds of residents were forced to flee their homes and gathered at a nearby sports centre until it was safe to return in the early hours of the morning.

The area around Persevere Court was sealed off. Picture: Toby Williams

The area around Persevere Court was sealed off. Picture: Toby Williams

Faris al-Khori, a 62-year-old former doctor from Syria, is now facing jail after admitting possessing the hoard in court yesterday.

His haul was only unearthed after firefighters attended a 999 call over a blaze in a rubbish chute on the 11th floor of Fidra Court on April 18.

After the flames were extinguished, they forced entry to flats to check no-one was inside, but when they entered a property where al-Khori was a tenant they found mustard jars containing white powder and one marked “weed killer”.

The High Court in Edinburgh heard how a bomb scene manager was called along with chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear advisers as the entire building was evacuated.

Several of these notations are hand written and appear to be instructions on how to prepare explosives and bombs

Alex Prentice

A week later, a search was carried out at a further block where al-Khori lived with his wife in Persevere Court, Leith, and a further haul of material was recovered.

Al-Khori admitted the items belonged to him and said acetone that was recovered was used to clean carpets and peroxide found was for clearing up after pigeons.

He said that a quantity of fertiliser was used for plants on the balcony, although there were none there when police searched the premises.

His wife said he carried out “wee tests” and bought items from the internet retail giant Amazon.

Police sealed off Persevere Court. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Police sealed off Persevere Court. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Al-Khori, who trained in Iraq as a doctor, admitted a breach of the 1883 Explosive Substances Act.

Between December 27, 2007 and April 27 last year he possessed or had under his control explosives substances.

He was described in court as a “Walter Mitty” fantasist and while it was accepted he made no attempt to make a bomb, he is still facing up to 14 years in jail.

A judge rejected a defence motion to free al-Khori, who at one stage faced Terrorism Act charges, on bail ahead of sentencing next month.

Advocate depute Alex Prentice QC told the court: “The plea is tendered on the basis that the accused was in possession of various items which, whilst not explosive in themselves, apart from 1g of lead picrate, could in combination be made into explosive substances.

“He accepts that the circumstances give rise to a reasonable suspicion that he did not have them for a lawful purpose.”

The prosecutor added: “The Crown accepts that the accused never made or attempted to make any explosive substance, explosive device or improvised explosive device.”

Mr Prentice said that al-Khori had also been questioned about bolts, ball bearings and a large amount of nails that were found during searches.

“The only explanation that he provided was that the nails were used to carry out DIY jobs around the home,” he said.

Mr Prentice said the most significant find at Fidra Court was five litres of acetone and five litres of hydrogen peroxide. The two chemicals could be combined to form the ingredient for a volatile explosive known as TATP.

The most significant seizure at Persevere Court was a mustard jar marked “lead picrate”. The jar was destroyed in a controlled explosion by the bomb squad.

“A large amount of notations and documents were also seized from both properties. To give some idea of the scale there were cabinet drawers filled with recipes and documentation as well as two large holdalls full of material,” said the prosecutor.

He added: “Several of these notations are handwritten and appear to be instructions on how to prepare explosives and bombs.”

Searches revealed a large number of chemicals including high-purity citric acid which can be used to produce a primary high explosive HMTD.

Potassium permangnate was also found, which can be burnt inside a pipe to increase damage. Many pipes were also found, along with a hand-
written recipe.

Mr Prentice said: “Documentation found included a recipe for thermite, which is an explosive pyrotechnic requiring aluminium powder.”

A package containing aluminium powder was recovered, along with bottled mercury, which can be used to make tilt switches for IEDs along with a circuit board.

Among the finds was an envelope containing ball bearings. Mr Prentice said: “Ball bearings may be incorporated into IEDs and there was documentation contained for ‘palm size bombs’ which require ball bearings.”

During the search at Persevere Court, two books containing handwritten explosives recipes were found, along with firearms books and detonator notations.

Defence counsel Brian McConnachie QC told the court that al-Khori, a former Syrian national, had qualified as a doctor in Iraq before moving to Austria where he obtained a diploma in neurosurgery.

He came to Britain in 1984 but failed the second part of surgeon’ tests and had acted as a carer for his wife. Mr McConnachie said: “There is no information to suggest he has any extremist ideology or motivation.”

He said al-Khori had purchased material through easily traceable internet firms and used an address registered to him and his own bank accounts.

He said: “There was never any indication he made any attempt to conceal his online activity.”

Mr McConnachie said it appeared that they were dealing with “some kind of Walter Mitty”.

Al-Khori had faced terrorism legislation charges at an earlier stage in proceedings, but the Crown later considered there was no basis for any such charges.

CONTROLLED EXPLOSION ON LEITH LINKS ‘AS LOUD AS THE ONE O’CLOCK GUN’

FARIS al-Khori’s illicit haul caused mayhem for hundreds of residents in Muirhouse and Leith.

Between 200 and 300 people from Fidra Court were evacuated to Ainslie Park Leisure Centre late on April 18 last year as experts probed the discovery.

And it wasn’t until 3am on the Saturday that they were allowed to return to their homes.

Police officers working in shifts remained for several days, while investigations continued.

A week later there was another day of high drama as swarms of police descended on Persevere Court, Leith, to force stunned residents out of the block into safe muster points. Those at neighbouring properties were told to stay away from their windows.

Army bomb disposal experts then carried out a controlled explosion on nearby Leith Links.

One witness told the Evening News at the time that the bang sounded “as loud as the One o’Clock Gun going off”.

Defence counsel Brian McConnachie QC told the High Court in Edinburgh yesterday that al-Khori had never intended to cause trouble.

He said: “It would be, I think fair to say and I am not seeking to criticise anyone, that the authorities became very excited, for want of a better word, in relation to this particular discovery.”

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