An Islamic State sympathizer who planned to attack U.S. military personnel stationed in England was convicted of terrorism, concluding a trial that shone a light on how militants in Syria help orchestrate attacks in Europe.
Junead Khan, a delivery driver for a medical supplies company, was encouraged by an Islamic State fighter in Syria to ram his vehicle into any soldiers or airmen he encountered outside an overseas U.S. Air Force base, and then to set upon them with knives, according to prosecutors.
U.K. authorities say they believe the fighter who encouraged him was Junaid Hussain, a British citizen who was killed by a U.S. drone strike in Raqqa, Syria, last August. Authorities say Mr. Hussain, who went by the nom de guerre of Abu Hussain al-Britani, had become a senior commander of the militant group’s electronic army and had encouraged several Western-based plots.
The verdict comes as security officials across the continent scramble to cauterize terrorist plots engineered and inspired by Islamic State, such as the recent Paris and Brussels atrocities that left a combined total of 162 dead.
On Friday, a jury found 25-year old Mr. Khan from Luton, a town north of London, guilty of two counts of preparing acts of terrorism. His uncle, Shazib Khan, who is two years younger, was convicted of one charge of preparing terrorist acts. Mr. Khan, also from Luton, stood trial alongside his nephew, accused of planning to travel to Syria to join Islamic State, which is a proscribed organization in the U.K.
Fears that U.S. service personnel and civilians could be targeted in a possible terrorist plot prompted local U.S.A.F. base commanders to cancel Fourth of July events scheduled to take place at RAF Feltwell, a former British bomber field near Cambridge now used to house U.S.A.F. staff members stationed at Lakenheath, the only base of F-15 combat jets in Europe.
In one conversation shown to jurors, conducted via the secure online messaging program Surespot on July 5th, Abu Hussain told Mr. Khan that he could get him the addresses of British soldiers, but suggested that carrying out an attack on a well-defended base could be difficult.
“I suppose on the road is the best idea…I can tell you how to make a bomb,” wrote Abu Hussain.
Mr. Khan replied that when he had driven past the base before, he had been tempted to carry out an impromptu attack.
“When I saw there [U.S.] soldiers on road it just looked simple but I had nothing on me or would’ve got into an accident with them and made them get out of the car,” he wrote.
“That’s what the brother done with Lee Rigby,” replied Abu Hussain. “Yes brother, mujahid style, accident and then attack,” wrote Mr. Khan.
Forensic examination of phones and laptops found at the men’s home showed Junead Khan researched how to make improvised explosive devices, and where to obtain a combat knife, the court heard.
Instructions on how to assemble a pressure cooker bomb from al Qaeda’s English-language magazine Inspire were downloaded onto Mr. Khan’s laptop, said prosecutors. In the July 5 conversation between Abu Hussain and Mr. Khan, the Islamic State fighter said he had a manual for a pressure cooker bomb that he could send to the Luton man.
“It’s best to at least have pipe bombs or pressure cooker bomb in a backpack in case something happens,” wrote Abu Hussain. “So you can do isthishadi [suicide] bomb in case they try to arrest u.” - WSJ
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