UK terror suspects ‘targeted police and soldiers’

Scotland Yard chief reveals 218 arrests this year. Picture: AP
Scotland Yard chief reveals 218 arrests this year. Picture: AP
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FOUR men yesterday appeared in court accused of plotting a terror attack on police officers or soldiers on the streets of London.

Tarik Hassane, 21, Suhaib Majeed, 20, Nyall Hamlett, 24, and Momen Motasim, 21, appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court yesterday charged with intending to commit acts of terrorism.

Members of the gang allegedly swore allegiance to extremist group Islamic State (IS) and scouted out Shepherd’s Bush police station and White City Territorial Army Barracks.

Hassane and Majeed laughed as details of the alleged plot were read to the court.

They allegedly kept Instagram images of two Scotland Yard police officers and two Metropolitan Police community support officers, as well as a trove of jihadist material, including videos of beheadings.In addition, they are accused of having a Baikal handgun, silencer and six rounds of ammunition.

It is alleged the men discussed sourcing and stashing a moped as part of the terror plot and are said to have used codewords over secret communication channels.

The gang are accused of deciding to act on “the fatwa of Al Adnani”, a ruling made by the official spokesman and senior leader for IS Abu Mohammad al-Adnani al-Shami.

Other extremist material they are alleged to have possessed includes a copy of Dabiq, an online magazine used by IS, published on 4 October, which contained graphic images including the beheading of Steven Sotloff – an American journalist held hostage by the militant group and then beheaded. The men also are accused of having copies of jihadi magazine Inspire.

Mark Dawson, prosecuting, said the 21 details within the terror charge relate to the gang of four, but different items related to different members.

“This is a plot, in essence, to shoot, to kill, police officers or soldiers on the streets of London,” he told Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

The four have yet to enter a plea.

A fifth man, Nathan Cuffy, 25, also appeared in court charged with firearms offences.

The five men, who were dressed in prison-issue grey sweatshirts and trousers, confirmed their names and addresses – all in London.

The men were flanked in the dock by ten plain-clothes police officers, some wearing white stab-proof vests, and four uniformed dock officers.

They arrived at court under heavy police protection including a helicopter, two vans and several marked cars.

Defence lawyers for Hassane, of Princess Alice House, Dalgarno Way; Majeed, of Cherwell House, Church Street Estate; Hamlett, of Hanwell House, Great Western Road; Motasim, of Reading House, Hallfield Estate; and Cuffy, of Sandbourne House, Dartmouth Close, all in London, made no applications for bail.

District Judge Emma Arbuthnot remanded the men in custody to appear at the Old Bailey on 27 October.

‘Several’ UK terror plots foiled every year

BRITAIN’S counter-terrorism chief has warned officers are grappling with “exceptionally high” numbers of investigations each to halt murder plots.

Amid heightened fears over the influence of extremist group Islamic State, Scotland Yard assistant commissioner Mark Rowley, the national policing lead for counter-terrorism, yesterday took the unusual step of revealing details of the scale of the threat police face.

It came as Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond suggested British jihadists who fight in Iraq or Syria could be tried for treason.

Mr Rowley said hundreds of suspected terrorists have been arrested so far this year, and that police are taking down more than 1,000 pieces of extremist material from the internet every week, including videos of beheadings, torture and suicides.

Mr Rowley said: “So far this year, we have made 218 arrests and are running exceptionally high numbers of counter-terrorism investigations, the likes of which we have not seen for several years. Against an increasing operational tempo, we are disrupting several attack plots a year. These plots are of varied sophistication, from individuals planning to carry out spontaneous yet deadly attacks, to more complex conspiracies.

“Almost all, seemingly, are either directed by or inspired by terrorism overseas. We have secured evidence and charged 16 returnees for terrorist activity in Syria.

“The volume, range and pace of counter-terrorism activity has undergone a step change. Public safety is our No1 priority and we will always focus our disruption activity against those posing the greatest and most imminent threat. Sometimes this means intervening very early – essential to prevent attacks, but presenting enormous challenges in securing sufficient evidence to charge.”

More than 80 per cent of the material removed from the internet is related to Iraq and Syria, and Mr Rowley revealed that so far there are 66 people who have been reported missing to police who are feared to have travelled to Syria.

He added: “The growing problem of young, impressionable and, in some cases, vulnerable individuals being radicalised online is an increasing risk.”

Meanwhile, Mr Hammond said Britons travelling to the Middle East had “sworn personal allegiance” to Islamic State (IS) and could potentially have committed treason. The last prosecution for treason was in 1946, when the notorious Lord Haw Haw – real name William Joyce – was hanged for his Nazi propaganda broadcasts. The offence remains on the statute books, even though the death penalty has been abolished.

• An oil facility where six British workers were murdered in a terrorist attack, failed to meet “minimum security standards” an inquest heard yesterday.

Measures to deter militants had not been discussed in the months before the attack at the In Amenas plant in Algeria. The victims were among 40 hostages killed at the BP-run facility.