Month: February 2015

MI5 blunders that allowed Jihadi John to slip the net

MI5 and police came into contact at least a dozen times with the man identified yesterday as Jihadi John before he was able to flee Britain for Syria, it emerged last night.

The security services made a botched attempt to “turn” Mohammed Emwazi after he was first intercepted when they feared he was trying to join a Somali terrorist group six years ago.

However, Emwazi, who grew up in west London and is likely to have been radicalised in this country, rejected the advances and slipped out of the country, despite being on a terrorist watch list, to become one of the world’s most wanted men. The 26-year-old computer programmer has now murdered at least five Western hostages.

Last night, the daughter of one of his victims questioned how he was able to slip through the net. The Security Service is expected to face a parliamentary inquiry into its contacts with him and whether more could have been done to stop him. The case has echoes of the fanatic Michael Adebolajo, who was approached by – and known to – MI5 before going on to murder Fusilier Lee Rigby in 2013.

Intelligence agencies in the UK and America had suggested for several months that they knew the killer’s true identity but it was a closely guarded secret. It is understood they only knew definitely last September.

The hooded Isil killer had been known to MI5 since at least 2009 and had been part of a notorious west London network of fanatics called “The London Boys”.

The Security Service and police had questioned him or members of his family on a dozen occasions, including an attempt to recruit him, it was claimed. But despite being on their watch list, Emwazi was able to slip out of the UK in 2013 and go to Syria where he became the infamous and barbaric Isil figure.

The MI5 headquarters in London (Alamy)

Dubbed Jihadi John, Emwazi has been the face of Isil brutality, responsible for guarding the group’s Western hostages, and handled negotiations with their families before murdering them in a series of horrific videos posted on the internet. He was filmed murdering David Haines, a Scottish aid worker, and Alan Henning, a taxi driver from Manchester who travelled to Syria to help refugees.

Bethany Haines, David’s daughter, said last night that she would not rest until there was a “bullet between his eyes” as she questioned how he was allowed to leave the country.

She told ITV News: “There should have been more security in airports to stop people doing that and definitely for him, obviously he’s part of a terrorist group and is out to kill hundreds of people and it’s not right.

“They need to be monitoring airports more clearly. They need to be asking more security questions. Why are people going to Turkey and then getting a connecting flight? It’s not right. You don’t just go to Syria on holiday.”

Sir Menzies Campbell, a member of the parliamentary intelligence and security committee, which examines the activities of the spy agencies, said the committee was likely to seek answers from intelligence chiefs.

Emwazi has claimed he was placed on the watch list in 2009 amid concerns that he was trying to join al-Shabaab, a terrorist group based in Somalia, after being stopped with two friends in Tanzania.

They were removed to Schiphol Airport in Holland, where he was questioned by an MI5 agent called “Nick”, according to a detailed version of events he gave to Cage, a controversial human rights groups.

He claimed Nick told him: “You’ve got the whole world in front of you; you’re 21 years old; you just finished Uni — why don’t you work for us?” He claimed that after he rejected the offer he was told: “You’re going to have a lot of trouble … you’re going to be known … you’re going to be followed … life will be harder for you.”

According to his account, Emwazi was stopped again when he returned to Dover the next day and told he was on a terrorist watch list.

The Quintin Kynaston School in St John’s Wood, London

Over the next four years he claimed he or his family were approached or questioned on numerous occasions and he was stopped from trying to leave the UK on at least three occasions. On the last attempt, in early 2013, he had changed his name to Mohammed al-Ayan. Just a week later he managed to slip out of the country and head to Syria.

Court documents seen by The Daily Telegraph show that Emwazi was part of an established network of extremists based in west London who were well-known to the security services. A number of members of the group have gone on to fight in Syria, where at least one has been killed. They were originally trained by the al-Shabaab militant group in Somalia.

The legal document from 2012 states that they were part of “a network of United Kingdom and East African-based Islamist extremists involved in providing funds and equipment to Somalia for terrorism-related purposes and helping individuals travel from Britain to Somalia to undertake terrorism-related activity”.

The “London Boys” have been linked to the men behind the failed July 21 bombing of 2005, two of whom were arrested during police raids in Notting Hill and nearby North Kensington, close to Emwazi’s family home. Ibrahim Magag, another member of the group, is on the run after fleeing a court order on his movements by simply removing an electronic monitoring tag and vanishing in a black cab.

In Syria, Emwazi is believed to head a group of British fanatics dubbed “The Beatles” responsible for murdering a number of Western hostages, including the two Britons and three Americans.

Scotland Yard and Downing Street refused to confirm whether he was the suspect.

Emwazi’s parents, Jasem, 51, and Ghaneya, 47, came to London from Kuwait in 1993 when he was six years old in the aftermath of the Gulf War.

The family moved to Maida Vale in west London, where they eventually rented a modest house.

It is thought that Emwazi and his siblings went to the local secondary school, Quintin Kynaston in St John’s Wood, a popular and successful academy. In 2006 Emwazi gained a place on a computer programming course at the University of Westminster, which has faced questions about links between its student union and extremists.

Emwazi, although by now devout, insisted that he was not a radical at this time and was said to be an occasional worshipper at a mosque in Greenwich, south-east London.

He graduated in his early 20s and was described as a “polite” young man who liked to wear stylish Western clothes. He had by this stage grown a beard and was “mindful of making eye-contact with women”.

One of Emwazi’s former teachers told Channel 4 News: “He was a diligent, hard working, lovely young man, responsible, quiet. He was everything you could want a student to be. I’m just absolutely shocked that it appears to be him.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/islamic-state/11438786/MI5-blunders-that-allowed-Jihadi-John-to-slip-the-net.html

‘They are a strange and unfriendly family,’ say neighbours of man named as IS killer Jihadi John

Brutal killings: ‘Jihadi John’ in a video showing the murder of American Steven Sotloff

Neighbours of the man named as masked Islamic State killer Jihadi John today described him as “strange and unfriendly.”

Mohammed Emwazi, 27, from west London, is said to be the IS executioner behind a series of gruesome beheadings of hostages in Syria.

Today neighbours of his address in Queen’s Park said he lived with two sisters while his father ran a mini cab firm.

A neighbour said : “They are strange people – not like other people around here. He would not say hello he was unfriendly.”

They described him as wearing western clothes.

Neighbour Elisa Moraise added: “I saw the family last week. The mother wears a hijab.”

He is said by those who knew him to be polite and “had a penchant for wearing stylish clothes while adhering to the tenets of his Islamic faith.”

Another neighbour told the Standard : “They are a Muslim family. They do not mix with us or socialise, or talk to us. Ever since they moved in a while ago they do not say anything to us.”

Another neighbour said she was “gob smacked” to hear that Mohammed had been identified.

The woman, 30, said: “I have not seen him for ages – I knew him from the neighbourhood and always seemed ok – I just cannot believe it. I am in shock to think he is capable of those horrible things.”

http://www.standard.co.uk/news/world/they-are-a-strange-and-unfriendly-family-say-neighbours-of-man-named-as-is-killer-jihadi-john-10072138.html

Former student at University of Westminster identified as ‘Jihadi John’

A former student at University of Westminster has been identified as ‘Jihadi John’, the masked terrorist who beheads hostages held by Islamic State.

.

The Washington Post newspaper claimed his real name was Mohammed Emwazi, a computer programmer from west London.

The paper said he was raised in a middle-class neighbourhood and prayed at a mosque in Greenwich.

Those who knew him say he was polite and had a penchant for wearing stylish clothes while adhering to the tenets of his Islamic faith. He had a beard and was mindful of making eye contact with women, friends said.

– WASHINGTON POST

.

Mohammed Emwazi left the University six years ago. If these allegations are true, we are shocked and sickened by the news. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families.

We have students from 150 countries and their safety is of paramount concern. With other universities in London, we are working to implement the Government’s Prevent strategy to tackle extremism.

– UNIVERSITY OF WESTMINSTER

Scotland Yard refused to confirm the reports.

We have previously asked media outlets not to speculate about the details of our investigation on the basis that life is at risk. We are not going to confirm the identity of anyone at this stage or give an update on the progress of this live counter-terrorism investigation.

– COMMANDER RICHARD WALTON, METROPOLITAN POLICE COUNTER TERRORISM COMMAND, MET POLICE

Missing teenagers have crossed into Syria, Met Police say

Three missing teenagers believed to be heading to join Islamic State militants are thought to have crossed into Syria, UK police say.

The London schoolgirls were smuggled into Syria from Turkey four or five days ago, the BBC understands.

Sources suggest the girls entered Syria near the Kilis border crossing.

Bethnal Green Academy pupils Shamima Begum and Amira Abase, both 15, and Kadiza Sultana, 16, travelled to Istanbul on 17 February.

They flew from Gatwick to Turkey after telling their parents they were going out for the day.

The Metropolitan Police said it “now had reason to believe that they are no longer in Turkey and have crossed into Syria”.

“Officers continue to work closely with the Turkish authorities on this investigation,” the force said in a statement.

‘Out of reach’

Sources inside Syria suggest three girls who were identified as British – including one said to be wearing glasses – crossed the border with the help of people smugglers.

The news comes after the girls’ families made a number of emotional appeals for them to return.

BBC correspondent James Reynolds said it was “not clear what – if anything – British or Turkish authorities are now able to do”.

He said the fear was that once inside Syria, the missing schoolgirls would be “out of reach”.

Ross Frenett, from the think tank the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, said the girls’ long-term prospects were concerning.

“It seems likely they’re going to get married pretty quickly and then probably settle into some kind of domestic life,” he said.

“The worry is more what happens in the long term, because as [Islamic State] tends to lose territory, this idea of just settling down and helping it from the back end won’t necessarily work any more.

Turkish criticism

“We could see women taking a more active role in this conflict and that’s a real worry here.”

Earlier, Scotland Yard denied it had taken three days to inform officials in Turkey about the schoolgirls travelling to Syria.

Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said officials would have taken “necessary measures” had they known earlier.

But the Met has said it began working with Turkish authorities a day after the girls went missing.

The girls flew from London to Istanbul and are thought to have crossed into Syria at Kilis

Mr Arinc said: “It is a condemnable act for Britain to let three girls… come to Istanbul and then let us know three days later.

“They haven’t taken the necessary measures. The search is ongoing.

“It would be great if we can find them. But if we can’t, it is not us who will be responsible, but the British.”

‘Great assistance’

Scotland Yard said officers made contact with the foreign liaison officer at the Turkish Embassy in London on 18 February – the day after the girls left the UK.

“Since then we have been working closely with the Turkish authorities who are providing great assistance and support to our investigation,” a spokesman added.

A public appeal for information about the missing girls was launched by police on Friday, three days after the girls boarded their flight to Turkey.

UK police officers have also travelled to Turkey – although their role in the country has not been confirmed.

The three girls had been studying for their GCSEs at the school in Tower Hamlets, east London – where they have been described as “straight-A students”.

A fourth girl from the school is believed to have travelled to Syria in December.

Bethnal Green Academy principal Mark Keary said there was no evidence they had been radicalised at school.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-31612666

Syria girls: UK police deny Turkey information delay

Kadiza Sultana, Amira Abase and Shamima Begum
From left: Kadiza Sultana, Amira Abase and Shamima Begum left the UK a week ago

Scotland Yard has denied it took three days to inform Turkey about the London schoolgirls travelling to Syria, possibly to join Islamic State.

Shamima Begum and Amira Abase, both 15, and Kadiza Sultana, 16, travelled to Istanbul on 17 February.

Turkey’s Deputy PM Bulent Arinc said officials would have taken “necessary measures” had they known earlier.

But Scotland Yard has said it began working with Turkish authorities a day after the girls went missing.

The girls boarded a Turkish Airlines flight at Gatwick, and would have required a visa to enter the country.

‘Joint effort’Mr Arinc said: “It is a condemnable act for Britain to let three girls… come to Istanbul and then let us know three days later.

“They haven’t taken the necessary measures. The search is ongoing.

“It would be great if we can find them. But if we can’t, it is not us who will be responsible, but the British.”

The three girls had been studying for their GCSEs at Bethnal Green Academy in Tower Hamlets.

A fourth girl from the school travelled to Syria in December.

The three girls passing through airport security
CCTV captured the girls passing through security at Gatwick Airport

Mr Arinc’s comments came after UK police officers travelled to Turkey, although their role in the country has not been confirmed.

A Scotland Yard statement said: “Once we established that the girls had travelled to Turkey, police made contact with the foreign liaison officer at the Turkish Embassy in London on Wednesday, 18 February.

“Since then we have been working closely with the Turkish authorities who are providing great assistance and support to our investigation.”

A public appeal for information about the missing girls was launched by police on Friday, three days after the girls boarded their flight to Turkey.

‘Closer co-operation’Commons Home Affairs Committee chairman Keith Vaz said there needed to be “much closer co-operation” with Turkey in tackling the problem of people travelling through the country to Syria and Iraq.

Prime Minister David Cameron has also urged airlines and internet companies to do more to prevent radicalised British teenagers travelling to the Middle East.

Mr Arinc said: “We have tracked down and banned tentatively 10,000 people who were previously reported to us from entering Turkey on suspicions of terrorist activities. We fulfil our duty.

“We believe that there is a need for joint effort and co-ordination in fight against terrorism.”

Security services have already faced criticism after it emerged that, before leaving the UK, Shamima sent a Twitter message to Aqsa Mahmood, who left Glasgow for Syria in 2013 to marry an Islamic State fighter.

According to a lawyer for Ms Mahmood’s family, her Twitter account has been “monitored” by police since she left Britain.

He said authorities should have seen Shamima’s message and taken action before she and her two friends followed.

The girls have been described as “straight-A students”. Their principal Mark Keary said on Monday there was no evidence they had been radicalised at school.

The girls’ families have made appeals for them to come home.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-31598693

Erol Incedal retrial: Terror suspect ‘had Tony Blair’s address’

Court sketch of Erol Incedal

A man accused of planning a Mumbai-style terror attack in the UK had the address of a property owned by Tony Blair, the Old Bailey has heard.

The retrial of Erol Incedal, 27, from London, heard how police had found the address on a piece of paper in a glasses case in his car.

He denies intending to commit a terrorist act and is being retried after jurors failed to agree on a verdict at a trial last year.

Parts of the trial will be in secret.

The court heard how Mr Incedal had been found guilty of possessing bomb-making instructions last year, but the original jury could not agree on a charge of preparing terrorist acts.

‘Exceptional case’

Richard Whittam QC, prosecuting, said the retrial was “an exceptional case” as parts of it would be held in secret, without the presence of the public and the press.

The jury will hear that Mr Incedal was “actively engaged with another or others who were abroad”, Mr Whittam said.

“The prosecution case is that such engagement was for an act, or acts of terrorism, either against a limited number of individuals, an individual of significance, or a more wide-ranging and indiscriminate attack, for example the one in Mumbai in 2008,” he added.

The attack in the Indian city, in November 2008, left 164 people dead.

Tony and Cherie Blair
An address for a property owned by Tony and Cherie Blair was found in Mr Incedal’s car

When Mr Incedal was arrested he was found with a number of documents, a computer and a piece of paper with an address on it, Mr Whittam added.

“It refers to a property that is owned by Tony and Cherie Blair,” he said.

He said the jury must consider if the address of the former prime minister was “significant as a potential target”.

Information ‘from uncle’

Police also found evidence on the computer of what they claim were references to carrying out a gun attack, Mr Whittam said.

He said a forensic analysis of Mr Incedal’s laptop had revealed coded email exchanges during the summer of 2013, in which one author refers to “new information from uncle”.

The message continued: “He may be able to find you straps. These straps are not the little ones. They are like the ones we have here, you know k1122aaashhh.”

It would be up to the jury to decide if that was a possible reference to bullets and Kalashnikov rifles, Mr Whittam said.

Mr Incedal is charged with intending to commit a terrorist act between February 2012 and October 2013.

He was arrested in October 2013 with another man, Mounir Rarmoul-Bouhadjar, who has admitted possessing a bomb-making guide.

The trial continues.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-31607568

Lutfur Rahman accuses Labour of ‘institutional racism’

‘institutional racism’

Lutfur Rahman, Mayor of Tower Hamlets
Four voters have opposed Lutfur Rahman’s election

The mayor of an east London borough who is accused of electoral fraud has told a judge that the Labour Party bears “hallmarks of institutional racism”.

Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman, who denies any wrongdoing, was giving evidence in a special trial at the High Court.

Mr Rahman said he “felt a degree of ambivalence” from Labour’s hierarchy.

He had been part of a “new generation of ethnic minority candidates” in the party, he said.

Four voters have taken legal action against the mayor, under the provisions of the Representation Of The People Act.

They want Election Commissioner Richard Mawrey, who is sitting as a judge at the trial, to declare void the result of the May 2014 mayoral election, which saw Mr Rahman elected for a second term, and order a rerun.

‘Ruffled feathers’

Mr Rahman is the former Labour leader on Tower Hamlets Council and now leads Tower Hamlets First (THF).

He told the hearing: “I believe I ruffled feathers in the party hierarchy.

“The Labour Party is not racist in the overt sense but I believe it, like many other organisations, still bears some of the hallmarks of institutional racism.

“In my experience this often meant identifying ethnic Bengali activists or councillors as ‘Bangladeshi activists’ or ‘Bangladeshi councillors’ and seeing them as responsible for delivering the Bangladeshi vote.”

Earlier on Monday while giving evidence, Mr Rahman also apologised for forgetting he had signed off his own party’s constitution.

Signatures ‘forged’

Mr Rahman formed THF in 2013, but said on Friday he had not seen a formal constitution and was not aware of any bank accounts.

However, he went on to apologise for this, blaming memory loss. He said: “I made a mistake. I am sorry.”

He was also cross-examined about a petition from 2010 calling for a referendum on whether the borough should have a directly elected mayor.

Barrister Francis Hoar said 50% of the signatures on the document were forged, and accused Mr Rahman of instigating this – a claim he denied.

Mr Rahman is expected to give evidence for three days.

The trial started earlier this month and is expected to end next month.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-31585699