Terror gang gets 45 years after toy car bomb plot

Zahid Iqbal, Syed Farhan Hussain, Mohammed Sharfaraz Ahmed and Umar Arshad (unpictured) were jailed. Picture: PA
Zahid Iqbal, Syed Farhan Hussain, Mohammed Sharfaraz Ahmed and Umar Arshad (unpictured) were jailed. Picture: PA
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FOUR British terrorists have been jailed for a total of almost 45 years for their roles in plotting an al-Qaeda-inspired attack.

Zahid Iqbal, 31, and Mohammed Sharfaraz Ahmed, 25, discussed sending a remote-controlled toy car carrying a home-made bomb under the gates of a Territorial Army (TA) centre in Luton, London’s Woolwich Crown Court heard.

Mr Justice Wilkie QC said the pair posed “a significant risk of serious harm to the public” as he imposed prison sentences of 16 years and three months, of which they must serve at least 11 years and three months.

Umar Arshad, 24, was jailed for six years and nine months and Syed Farhan Hussain, 22, for five years and three months.

The men, all from Luton, had admitted one count of engaging in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism between 1 January 2011 and 25 April 2012, at a hearing on 1 March.

Addressing Iqbal and Ahmed, Mr Wilkie said: “In each of their cases, their persistent commitment to terrorist activity, in a number of different ways, over a significant period of time and, in each case, their willingness to take practical steps to obtain terrorist training abroad, marks them as particularly dangerous.”

The four considered methods, materials and targets for a terrorist attack, the court heard.

Iqbal and Ahmed spoke about making an improvised explosive device (IED) based on instructions in an al-Qaeda manual entitled Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom, by “the al-Qaeda chef”, the court was told.

Covert recordings of the pair heard Iqbal suggesting attaching the bomb to a remote-controlled toy car and sending it under the gap of a gate to a TA centre in Luton. Iqbal was recorded telling Ahmed: “I was looking and drove past like the TA centre, Marsh Road. At the bottom of their gate there’s quite a big gap.

“If you had a little toy car, it drives underneath one of their vehicles or something.”

The men were arrested after a series of raids at their homes in April last year after an intelligence-led joint operation by the Metropolitan Police Counter-Terrorism Command and the British Security Service (BSS).

The court heard that Iqbal was acting as a “facilitator” for people who wanted to travel for “extremist purposes”.

He helped Ahmed travel to Pakistan in March 2011 for military training and discussed methods of avoiding detection, the court heard. Ahmed was observed by surveillance on “numerous occasions” going on trips to mountainous regions such as Snowdonia with others in preparation.

A search of Iqbal’s house found a hard drive containing a number of items including a copy of 44 Ways to Support Jihad, by Anwar Al Awlaki.

Search warrants issued at the defendants’ addresses uncovered evidence from computers and digital media, mobile telephones and sim cards, passports, travel documentation and quantities of cash, the court was told.

Deputy assistant commissioner Stuart Osborne, head of the Met’s Counter-Terrorism Command, said the jail sentences ensured that “the public are safer”.