Yusuf Sarwar and his former schoolmate Mohammed Ahmed bought books Arabic For Dummies and The Qu’ran For Dummies before travelling to Syria
Birmingham City University student Sarwar, a former car park attendant at West Bromwich Albion’s Hawthorns ground, and unemployed Ahmed travelled to Syria via Turkey in May 2013 and stayed in the country for eight months fighting with Al-Qaida inspired rebels.
The court heard before travelling to the war zone the former Handsworth classmates had bought books on Amazon entitled Arabic for Dummies and The Quran for Dummies.
They were caught when Sarwar’s mother found a letter in his bedroom in Antrobus Road in which he had said he wanted to “die as a martyr.”
Brian Altman QC, prosecuting, said the former university student and Ahmed, of Farcroft Avenue, made the “carefully planned” trip after discussing travelling abroad to fight Jihad as far back as 2012.
Mr Altman said without Sarwar’s mother contacting anti-terror cops they would not have been able to build a case against the men and be ready for them when they returned to the UK earlier this year.
Part-time computer science student Sarwar sat in the dock in a blue cheque shirt, tie and blue waistcoat.
Ahmed, who previously worked for the Royal Mail, sat next to him in a grey buttoned up shirt.
Both men had previously denied engaging in conduct in preparation of acts of terrorism, but changed their pleas before a jury was sworn in at London’s Woolwich Crown Court.
Mr Altman told the court the men had come up with an “elaborate hoax” to deceive their families in order to fight Jihad.
Sarwar had told his parents he had booked a trip to Turkey and he even mocked-up a leaflet about the fictitious holiday.
He told relatives the trip had been organised by his university and even provided phony contact details of ‘organiser’ Edward Duncan – who did not exist.
In fact Sarwar travelled to the war zone with former Holyhead School friend Ahmed to fight alongside rebel groups battling against forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.
Their families remained in touch with the men and repeatedly urged them to return home.
The pair finally flew back from Istanbul in January 2014 and were arrested at Heathrow Airport.
Counter-terrorism officers from West Midlands Police later found traces of ‘military standard’ explosives on their clothes and other belongings.
And thousands of photographs were also recovered from a camera memory card which showed the pair in a war zone setting – and posing with weapons including AK47 assault rifles.
Four days after the men had left, Ahmed’s father visited Sarwar’s family because he was concerned about his son.
Sarwar’s mother was unaware that the pair had travelled together and she still thought he was on a university trip to see the sights of Istanbul.
She later searched his bedroom and found a six-page hand written letter entitled: “Dear mum, please read.”
It read: “As you know I have gone on holiday, but the real reason is to do Jihad for Allah.”
He bullet-pointed reasons for fighting Jihad including to ‘‘defeat the enemies of Islam’’, ‘‘to support the oppressed brothers and sisters of Islam’’ and ‘‘to apply the law of Allah’’.
The letter also included detailed instructions about putting his affairs in order, which included how his mother should cancel his mobile phone contract and he left her a cheque for nearly £5,000.
He ended the letter by warning his mother not to contact the ‘kuffar non believer authorities’.
He also said the Taliban and Al-Qaida were not bad and that he planned to join an Al-Qaida group of fighters in Syria.
Sarwar’s alarmed mother went to Steelhouse Lane police station with her husband just after midnight on May 20. She handed over the letter and the forged university flyer.
Anti-terror police secured warrants for both men’s homes and found incriminating material on their computers.
Facebook profiles used by the pair included an update commenting on the weather in Syria, while Skype, Facebook and other chat conversations were found showing their radicalised views.
Ahmed said in one chat to Sarwar: “I can’t tell everyone I’m going Jihad, lol, that would mean getting arrested the next day… Al-Qaida are the best.”
There were also emails recovered from Ahmed to a known Danish extremist, and comments which identified Nato, America and Muslim governments who fraternised with America as the enemy.
There were also discussions recovered on social media about how to take down a tank with an IED, while internet searches over the course of a year included ‘Syria’, ‘Qu’ ran Jihad’, and ‘Al-Qaida Training’.
The pair were caught on CCTV checking into a Premier Inn near Heathrow boarding a plane to Istanbul.
Before they had travelled the men shopped on Sarwar’s Amazon account and bought balaclavas, binoculars, combat gloves, walkie-talkies, and a camera. They also ordered maxi muscle weight-loss pills and books entitled Arabic for Dummies, the Muslim Marriage Guide and The Qu’ran for Dummies.
Images were also found on their computers that showed them next to symbols of known terror groups.
After their arrest both men initially claimed that they had been in Turkey on holiday and later said that they had been carrying out humanitarian’ work, including clearing buildings and giving first aid.
But they admitted their guilt and now face lengthy prison sentences.
His Honour Judge Michael Topolski QC adjourned the sentencing at Woolwich Crown Court to a later date.
Speaking afterwards Assistant Chief Constable Marcus Beale, senior officer for counter terrorism in the West Midlands, said it was vital for families and communities to be alert to the potential radicalisation of young men.
“These young men went to considerable lengths to hide their plans from their families, who have since suffered a great deal of distress,’’ he said.
“It’s not easy to know everything that a family member is doing all of the time, but we encourage parents to hold a healthy interest and curiosity into who their children mix with and who seems to hold a strong influence over them.
“Crucially, if families are worried that a member is thinking of travelling to Syria it isvery important that they tell the authorities as soon as possible.
“The police and other agencies can offer support to help safeguard those who are vulnerable to radicalisers and the sooner we can intervene the better chance we have of preventing young people from becoming embroiled in criminal behaviour.
“Police can’t do this alone. We need a whole community effort.”
via – http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/handsworth-jihadist-former-west-bromwich-7392615