Beds, Herts & Bucks

British taxi driver Naseer Taj jailed for terrorist offences

Naseer Taj Image copyright Bedfordshire Police
Image caption Naseer Taj was arrested after a police raid on his Bedford flat in December 2014

A taxi driver who planned to leave his pregnant wife to join the so-called Islamic State has been jailed for 8 years and three months.

Naseer Taj, 26, of Bedford, had prepared to travel to Syria, marry a jihadi bride and achieve martyrdom, his trial at the Old Bailey heard.

In February, he was found guilty of preparation of terrorist acts and having copies of the al Qaida's magazine Inspire.

He was arrested during a raid in 2014.

Prosecutors said he was "caught red-handed" on 29 December as he finalised preparations to leave his flat on Victoria Road.

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'True intentions'

The defence at his trial claimed Taj had planned to live peacefully in Syria with his new wife, but he had changed his mind about travelling shortly before his arrest.

However, police found evidence he had booked a New Year's Eve train to Brussels and an onward flight to Turkey.

Image copyright Bedfordshire Police
Image caption Police said Naseer Taj took this photo of himself on a previous trip on the Eurostar

The prosecution argued the return plane ticket "was intended to disguise his true intentions".

Police also found combat boots and trousers, a utility belt and a type of scarf worn by fighters in the Middle East.

Taj had assumed the name Abu Bakr Al-Kashmiri to open a Twitter account, which is no longer available.

The wallpaper on the account, used an image of Mohammed Emwazi - the British Muslim known as Jihadi John who was filmed carrying out beheadings and was killed in a drone strike in November.

'Sad reality'

Taj, who has a young son, was also convicted of having a false driving licence.

Det Insp Ryan Brammer, from the UK's regional Eastern Counter Terrorism Intelligence Unit, said Taj was "a very active supporter of Daesh who had clear plans to travel to Syria to join so-called Islamic State.

"The sad reality is that his intentions meant he has missed out on the birth of his child and will not be there to see them growing up," he said.

"Those who choose to plan, carry out, or encourage others to carry out acts of terrorism have no place in our communities and we will work hard to identify, arrest and bring to justice those who do."

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