2007 plot to behead a British Muslim soldier
The 2007 plot to behead a British Muslim soldier was undertaken by a group of British Pakistanis in Birmingham, England, planning to kidnap and behead a British Muslim soldier in order to undermine the morale of the British Army and inhibit its recruitment of Muslims. The leader, Parviz Khan, admitted the plot and was sentenced to life imprisonment, to serve at least 14 years. One associate was found guilty of failing to report the plot and four associates were sentenced to up to seven years for supplying equipment to Pakistan-based militants fighting the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
Shortly after the arrests, reports appeared in a number of newspapers with details of the plot, citing unnamed security sources. According to the newspaper reports, the plot involved kidnapping a British Muslim soldier and taking him either to a run-down house in Leatherhead Close, Aston, Birmingham, believed to be owned by the wife of suspect Zahoor Iqbal or a safe house in Tipton, nine miles from Birmingham. There, he would be blindfolded, handcuffed, made to demand the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, and then he would be killed. A video of this would be released on the Internet. On a password-protected Internet forum affiliated with Al-Qaeda, the plotters were told: "It is preferable if you photograph or video the operation so that it can have a bigger set of viewers and can be used by the media." The newspaper reports also said that the group spent months compiling a hit list of 25 potential targets.
Four people from the group were also accused of supplying equipment on four occasions to Pakistan-based militants fighting the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. They had used the 2005 Kashmir earthquake as a cover to ship anglers' gloves used by snipers, sleeping bags, boots, waterproof map holders, laser rangefinders, anti-bugging equipment, video cameras and mobile phones.
For six months, British police forces and intelligence agencies, under the codename Operation Gamble, had been investigating the plot. They had hoped to investigate for another two months before making arrests, but when one of the suspects purchased a video camera it was feared that this was done in preparation for the kidnapping, so the police brought forward their decision to make the arrests.
On January 31, 2007, just before 4:00 am, more than 700 police officers raided eight homes and four businesses, including a corner store, two Islamic bookstores and an internet cafe. Eight men were arrested then, with a ninth arrested later in the afternoon while driving into Birmingham.
The sentencing judge described the leaking of information to the media at the time of the arrests as being a "very grave contempt of court". An inquiry by the Metropolitan Police failed to discover the source of these leaks. The civil liberties organisation Liberty said these leaks risked "undermining the work of police and prosecutors and jeopardising the trust and safety of the public".
In February 2008, five men were sentenced after admitting or being found guilty of these allegations.
|Pervaiz Khan||conspiracy to kidnap and murder
|Pleaded guilty||Life, serving a minimum of 14 years|
|Basiru Gassama||failing to report the conspiracy||Pleaded guilty||2 years followed by deportation|
|Amjad Mahmood||failing to report the conspiracy||Cleared||n/a|
|Zahoor Iqbal||supplying terrorists||Pleaded guilty||7 years|
|Mohammed Irfan||supplying terrorists||Pleaded guilty||4 years|
|Hamid Elasmar||supplying terrorists||Found guilty||3 years 4 months|
|Abu Bakr||conspiracy to kidnap and murder||Released without charge||n/a|
|Azzar Iqbal||conspiracy to kidnap and murder||Released without charge||n/a|
|An unnamed third man||conspiracy to kidnap and murder||Released without charge||n/a|
Gassama was born in Mansaringsu, Brikama, Gambia. He attended madrasahs in Gambia and Senegal, and continued his education in Saudi Arabia. He then moved to the UK and acquired citizenship. He is married to the daughter of a former Gambian Foreign Affairs minister whose name was withheld from the press. His brother was arrested in March 2006 in Banjul, Gambia as a suspect in a plot to overthrow Gambian president Yahya Jammeh. He lived in Hodge Hill, Birmingham at the time of his arrest and worked at Khan's General Store.
Iqbal was a 29-year-old teacher who lives in Kingstanding, north Birmingham. He taught Information Technology part-time at Saltley School, a specialist science college. He attended the Markazi Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith centre in Small Heath, which was also investigated in the documentary Undercover Mosque.
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