Pavlo Lapshyn, 25, a postgraduate student from Dnipro- petrovsk, in Ukraine, pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey to murdering Mohammed Saleem as he walked home from a mosque in Birmingham in April.
Lapshyn also admitted causing an explosion on 12 July, near the Kanzal Iman mosque in Tipton, and engaging in conduct in preparation of terrorist acts between 24 April and 18 July this year.
This included planting bombs near mosques in Walsall and Wolverhampton, researching locations to plant bombs and buying chemicals on the internet to make explosives. He will be sentenced on Friday.
The Ukrainian was in the UK on a sponsored work placement at a software firm in the Small Heath area of Birmingham when he was arrested on suspicion of Mr Saleem’s murder nearby on 20 July.
The pensioner and father of seven was stabbed three times yards from his house as he walked home alone after worship on 29 April. His death prompted an outpouring of grief from the community.
While Lapshyn remained at large, he plotted the planting of devices near three mosques as part of a campaign he said was motivated by racial hatred.
No-one was injured by any of the explosions.
Detective Superintendent Shaun Edwards, from the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit, said: “We found part-made devices in Lapshyn’s room, plus chemicals and bomb-making equipment, so it is clear he planned to place further devices with the intention of killing or maiming innocent members of the public.
“All three of the devices he detonated were powerful, but his final attack in Tipton was the first to feature shrapnel and nails. He placed this near the mosque’s car park with the intention of hitting worshippers as they arrived for prayers.
“Thankfully the service had been put back an hour, so the mosque was largely deserted when the bomb went off.”
DS Edwards said Lapshyn insisted he had acted alone: “He was keen to take credit for masterminding and carrying out the attacks.”
He added: “We have officers in Ukraine probing his history.”
Speaking outside the court, Assistant Chief Constable Marcus Beale described Lapshyn as “dangerous and evil”, but said he was not part of a wider extremist group. He said: “I hope they [Mr Saleem’s family] get some solace from it.
“He [Lapshyn] was extremely dangerous. It is of great relief that he is not free to walk the streets any further.
“He’s a dangerous, evil and completely ill-informed man. There is no justification for the crimes he committed.”
Mr Beale said the case was cracked through “the quality of evidence-gathering done around CCTV. Relentless work to find every camera and to track him”.
He added: “His motivation was very much that he thought the white man was better than everybody else and he was attacking for that reason.”
Speaking outside court, Mr Saleem’s daughter Shazia Khan said: “We are very pleased with the outcome of today’s hearing. Our dad was a lovely, kind man. He did not do anything to deserve this horrific killing other than being a Muslim.
“He was targeted simply because of his faith. His beard and his clothing represented who he was. To kill someone because of what they look like and what they believe in is unforgivable.”
She said that when she saw Lapshyn in court, she pitied him.
“He looked pathetic. He looked frightened and stressed.”
Home Secretary Theresa May said: “This is a satisfying outcome to a highly distressing case where Pavlo Lapshyn’s hatred has robbed a family of a loved one and attempted to cause fear and division within our communities.”