UK

IS-inspired 'drive-by' terror plot: Two students guilty

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Media captionDaniel Sandford reports: "Hassane and Majeed were part of a network of young extremists from west London"

Two men are facing life imprisonment after being convicted of plotting to kill police or soldiers in a shooting inspired by so-called Islamic State.

Suhaib Majeed, 21, of west London, was convicted of conspiracy to murder and preparation of acts of terrorism.

Ringleader Tarik Hassane, 22, of west London, had admitted the same charges.

Two men who provided a gun were cleared of conspiracy to murder and preparing terrorist acts by an Old Bailey jury, but admitted firearms offences.

Nyall Hamlett, 25, and Nathan Cuffy, 26, had admitted their role in handing over a gun to Majeed and Hassane but denied knowing what it was going to be used for.

The students who turned terror plotters

Question over terror plotters' network

The trial heard that Hassane, a medical student who split his time between London and university in Sudan, was immersed in extremist ideology and aspired to kill in London months before the IS group urged supporters in the West to carry out such attacks.

He turned to his childhood friend, Majeed - a physics undergraduate at Kings College London - to help him put the plan into action, with the pair communicating secretly through social media apps.

Majeed agreed to get a gun and moped for what would be a drive-by attack. Hamlett, a known criminal, supplied the weapon to Majeed after first acquiring it from Cuffy.


Analysis

By Dominic Casciani, home affairs correspondent

Operation Exactness has been one of the most significant recent counter-terrorism investigations in the UK.

When the plan devised by Tarik Hassane was uncovered in 2014, it was among a string of very serious ongoing inquiries and intelligence operations that convinced counter-terrorism chiefs to raise the UK threat level to severe, meaning an attack is highly likely.

It is also one of the half-dozen incidents of attack planning that ministers have publicly linked back to the self-styled Islamic State group.

Hassane was not directed by IS leaders in Syria or Iraq - but he is part of a broad network of suspects from west London who have either been inspired to go to fight, offer support or, most seriously for the UK, engage in attack planning at home.

At least 11 men from west London have died fighting in Syria and Iraq. Three of them were Hassane and Majeed's friends.


Hamlett and Cuffy admitted supplying the gun - but denied knowing about the terror plot and were cleared of conspiracy to murder and preparation of acts of terrorism.

When Majeed, Hamlett and Cuffy were arrested in September 2014, Hassane was out of the country - but he later came home to continue his planning.

When he was eventually arrested, police discovered he had been carrying out online surveillance of west London's Shepherd's Bush police station and a nearby Territorial Army base with the help of Google Maps.

Image copyright Met Police
Image caption Hassane was studying medicine at a university in Sudan, earning him the nickname "The Surgeon"

Half-way through the Old Bailey trial, Hassane pleaded guilty to conspiracy to murder and preparing terrorist acts. Majeed denied the charges and was convicted on the fifth day of the jury's deliberations.

Commander Dean Haydon, head of counter-terrorism at Scotland Yard, said Hassane was the leader of the group and he and Majeed had planned to carry out the drive-by attack together.

'Fear and panic'

"Their intention was to commit a drive-by shooting using a moped and a firearm," he said.

"Targeting specifically the police, the military or members of public in the street and then leave the scene afterwards that clearly would create fear and panic amongst the communities of west London."

Commander Haydon said Majeed spent time and effort setting up encrypted communications systems for the group so that Hassane could direct efforts while he was studying at university in Sudan.

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