LONDON (Reuters) - Two British men, one of whom had pledged allegiance to Islamic State, have been convicted of a terrorism plot inspired by the militant group to kill police officers, soldiers or even members of the public in drive-by shootings.
The plan, which a senior counter-terrorism officer said bore similarities to last November’s Paris attacks which killed 130 people, was to shoot soldiers at an army base in west London or police officers at a nearby station using a pistol fitted with a silencer fired from a moped.
“It does draw parallels in a way to Paris. The attackers in this case were intent on murder, they were intent on using a firearm and they were intent on causing fear, stress and disorder,” Dean Haydon, head of London’s Counter Terrorism Command, told reporters.
Suhaib Majeed, 21, was found guilty on Wednesday at London’s Old Bailey court of conspiring to murder and preparing for acts of terrorism while Tarik Hassane, 22, admitted the same charges halfway through the trial.
Two others admitted firearms offences but were cleared of involvement in the plot.
Hassane, a medical student nicknamed “The Surgeon”, directed the plot from Khartoum, Sudan, where he was studying, contacting his schoolfriend Majeed whom police said had set up a sophisticated system of encrypted communications.
When police arrested the men in September 2014, they seized 22 terabytes of data, which detectives said equated to 75 miles (km) of paper, forcing counter-terrorism police to mount their biggest ever case around digital media.
It contained a vast amount of extremist material, some relating to beheadings, support for IS and “hostile reconnaissance” of Shepherd’s Bush police station and the territorial army barracks close by, Haydon said.
It also showed Hassane had pledged allegiance to IS in July 2014, shortly after the al Qaeda offshoot declared an Islamic caliphate.
Haydon said there was every possibility Hassane, who the court heard sent pictures of himself posing with a gun and a book on al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, had spent time in Syria and they suspected he was communicating with people there.
“I don’t think I can say it was directed from Syria. I think what I can say that it was probably inspired by (IS),” he said.
The area where the men came from in west London was also home to a number of other militants including Mohammed Emwazi, the Briton known as “Jihadi John” who fronted IS beheading videos and was killed in November last year.
Haydon declined to comment on whether there were any links between the gang and Emwazi or any other militants.
Editing by Stephen Addison