Spooks acted as jihadist online to catch Elton John bomb plotter
Jailed for life: Haroon Ali Syed, 19, from Hounslow admitted to preparing for acts of terrorism.
A 19-year-old man, who was caught online by undercover MI5 officers, has been jailed for life for plotting to bomb an Elton John concert in Hyde Park or London’s busy Oxford Street.
Haroon Ali Syed, 19, from Hounslow, pleaded guilty in April this year to preparing for acts of terrorism (under section 5 of the Terrorism Act 2006) during a five-month period in 2016. He admitted to carrying out Web searches to look for potential targets and source weapons that the criminal could use in an attack.
He has been banged up for at least 15 years before Syed—whose pin code, according to the Met Police, was "ISIS"—can be considered for parole. He was sentenced at the Old Bailey to at least 16 years and six months in prison.
Syed had mulled targeting an Elton John gig in Hyde Park on the anniversary of 9/11. He also tried to source a machine gun, handguns, suicide vest, and bomb, but failed to raise the cash needed to fund his plot after bank loan requests were rejected.
Scotland Yard said that Syed then "settled on trying to source a bomb, with a special request for it to be packed with nails so he could detonate it in a crowded place such as Oxford Street."
Unwittingly, he spoke—for weeks—to a group of undercover spooks via social media who Syed believed to be a fellow Daesh supporter known as Abu Yusuf. According to the Crown Prosecution Service, on April 18 last year, Syed wrote:
Two things. Number one machine gun and we need someone who can make a vest you know the dugma (button) one… So after some damage with machine gun then do itishadi (martyrdom)… that’s what im planning to do.
During the period between April and September 2016, Syed had accessed "graphic and extreme videos and images on his mobile phone," the CPS said. He additionally searched the term "ISIS" and watched footage of terrorist attacks.
Syed was arrested in September last year, when his electronic equipment was seized. The BBC reported that judge Michael Topolski told Syed:
You were not lured, you were not enticed, you were not entrapped.
You became, and in my judgement as shown by your online activities away from your contact with Abu Yusuf, deeply committed to the ideology of a brutal and barbaric organisation that sought to hijack and corrupt an ancient and venerable religion for its own purposes and you wanted to be part of it.
Met counter-terrorism commander, Dean Haydon, said: "Our close working relationship with MI5 ensured we uncovered evidence that Syed was plotting to kill innocent members of the public." He added that the "sentence has ensured that a dangerous individual harbouring violent, terrorist ambitions has been removed from our community."