Muslim student in Scotland convicted of planning suicide attacks- threatened "to blow up Glasgow" from "respectable family"
September 17, 2007
Scottish ‘wannabe suicide bomber' guilty of terror offences
21-year-old Scottish student from a respected family was today convicted of designing a website to promote suicide attacks and threatening to blow up Glasgow.
Mohammed Atif Siddique, from Clackmannanshire, near Stirling in central Scotland, was been found guilty of "serious terrorism offences" which posed a genuine threat to the UK, he could be jailed for up to 15 years.
Siddique was well-known in the town of Alva for helping out in his family's shop, but when police officers raided his home they uncovered a cache of terrorist material.
The student, of Pakistani origin, has become the first British-born Muslim convicted of terrorism offences in Scotland, three months after a failed car-bomb attack on Glasgow Airport.
Five men who hoped to kill thousands with a fertiliser bomb were described as ruthless misfits who betrayed their country
Siddique was arrested at the same airport as he and his uncle prepared to board a flight to Lahore in Pakistan, in April last year.
He had been under surveillance by security services for several months and Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, was quick to praise their work today.
"I want to thank the men and women in the police and security service who worked extremely hard on this case," she said. "The successful conviction of the individual today in Glasgow is a reminder that the threat we face from terrorism is real and not isolated to any particular region."
The trial lasted almost four weeks and the jury returned guilty verdicts for possessing CDs and videos that could be used for terrorist purposes, setting up websites with links to terrorist publications and breaching the peace by threatening to become a suicide bomber and showing images of beheadings to fellow students at Glasgow Metropolitan College.
Brian McConnachie, QC, for the prosecution, told the court: "This is not somebody who is carrying out systematic research into Islamic politics and the difficulties of Muslims in the Middle East. This is a wannabe suicide bomber.
"There is a constant theme and that is Mohammed Atif Siddique wanted to become a suicide bomber and would become famous."
The sites he ran glorified suicide attackers and gave users links to terrorist publications with information on guerrilla warfare, light and heavy weaponry, and how to make explosives and booby trap devices.
A CD found under a carpet in his home included footage produced by the official al-Qaeda media wing and featured the voice of Osama Bin Laden and an Australian radical denouncing the West.
Siddique showed students at his college violent jihadist images and footage of beheadings, he also threatened to become a suicide bomber and attack Glasgow.
Judge Lord Carloway warned Siddique that he was considering an extended sentence which would mean a jail term of up to 15 years, followed by a term on licence.
"You have been convicted of significant contraventions of the Terrorism Act, in particular on charge one of having articles in your possession for the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism," he told the court.
Aamer Anwar, Siddique's solicitor, denounced the trial: "This verdict is a tragedy for justice and for freedom of speech and undermines the values that separate us from the terrorists, the very values we should be fighting to protect.
"The prosecution was driven by the state, with no limit to the money and resources used to secure a conviction in this case, carried out in an atmosphere of hostility after the Glasgow Airport attack and ending on the anniversary of 9/11.
"It is farcical that part of the evidence against Atif was that he grew a beard, had documents in Arabic which he could not even read, and downloaded material from a legitimate Israeli website."
From model pupil to a ‘wannabe bomber'
To casual acquaintances, he appeared to be a polite, mild-mannered and softly spoken young man. But behind the exterior, Mohammed Atif Siddique harboured an obsession with fanatical jihadist websites and dreamed of becoming Britain's next suicide bomber.
In the two years that led up to his arrest in April 2006, the 21-year-old told fellow students and workmates of his plans to blow up Glasgow, saying he was involved in a war on behalf of Muslims worldwide and patiently explaining the ideological justifications for Islamic martyrdom to those who would listen.
Among the thousands of video files, essays and documents police seized from his laptop and family PC were manuals giving detailed guidance on how to make explosive devices and assemble automatic weapons, films of suicide bombers promising a holy war against the West and lengthy treatises written in Arabic by some of al Qaeda's leading members.
During the long hours he spent alone in front of his computer, accessing password-protected websites frequented by the most senior of players in al Qaeda's online operation, he saw himself not as a deluded loner but as a heroic "freedom fighter" who would go down in history as the man who brought terror to Scotland's doorsteps. Officers believe his level of access would not be afforded to many.
Yet Siddique's background was as unassuming as his persona. He was born in Stirling and grew up eight miles away in Alva, the small Clackmannanshire town which sits in the shadows of the Ochils, where a few residential streets huddle around the main road.
His parents, Mohammad and Parveen, were Pakistani immigrants who had married in Rochdale before moving from Lancashire to Scotland in the 1980s. They ran a newspaper shop on the western edge of the town, adjacent to their seven-bedroom home, and won respect among locals for their polite manners and hard work.
But, like many of the handful of Muslim families living in Clackmannanshire, they lived a different life from their neighbours. They played little part in social events and appeared to have made few close friends among the white community. Associates described them as conservative, observant Muslims who attended mosques in Stirling and Alloa.
At first, Siddique appeared to have inherited his family's good character. He worked hard at school - his headteacher at Alva Academy described him in court as a "model pupil" - and went on to study computing at Forth Valley College in nearby Alloa before undertaking a two-year HND in information and communication technology at Glasgow Metropolitan College.
As with his family, Siddique's social circle was comprised mostly of other young Muslims: playing football with a local team, drawn mostly from the sons of other Pakistani-British shopkeepers in Clackmannanshire, and going to the mosque.
He held down a number of part-time jobs during his studies: firstly at his parents' shop, then at a nearby cash and carry, and later as a sales assistant at Silicon Group, a small computer shop on the outskirts of Alloa run by a Pakistani family whose upstairs room is home to the local mosque.
But unlike his elder brother Asif, a law student at Strathclyde University, Siddique did not excel academically. He failed nine out of 17 units at college and his lecturers told the High Court that his performance in the second year at Glasgow Met deteriorated rapidly. He graduated with only a Higher National Certificate rather than an HND in the summer of 2005 and found employment in a series of low-paid call centre jobs. He was unemployed for four months before his arrest.
In place of either academic or business success grew an all-consuming interest in online terrorist material. Students at the Met recall him trawling through Arabic websites portraying "freedom fighters" and glorifying suicide bombings. In between shifts at the Response Handling Team call centre in Ibrox, Glasgow, he would download extremist material from the nearby public library.
Siddique was happy to explain his warped ideology and appeared to revel in the shocked response it produced in students and work colleagues. Indeed, one student at Glasgow Met, Razia Hussain, recalled that Siddique, whom she said had earned the nickname "Suicide Bomber", was reluctant to talk about anything that did not involve Islam.
On the web, where Siddique was known by various pseudonyms, including Yahya Ayash - borrowed from the former Hamas chief bomb-maker - he was even more explicit. He praised suicide bombers fighting against American Kufr (unbelievers) in Iraq and signed off some postings with the message: "We promise that we will not let you live safely. Oh Americans wait for us, we have brought slaughter upon you."
At home, Siddique's increasingly militant interpretation of Islam caused friction with his parents. They worried about the amount of time he was spending alone in his bedroom looking at extremist websites and were unhappy that the teenager had grown a beard. Siddique, in turn, argued that his parents should not sell alcohol in the shop as it was haram, or contrary to Islam.
Matters came to a head in 2005 when Siddique's father forcibly cut off his beard, at his mother's insistence. Aged 19, he left home and went on a trip to England with a religious group from Glasgow Central Mosque, where he is believed to have spent time with other extremists.
When he eventually returned several weeks later - after his parents had frantically searched for him, arranging meetings with Habib-ur-Rahman, the head imam at Glasgow Central Mosque, among others - Siddique agreed to delete the extremist files which he had stored on the home computer.
For his family, that was the end of the matter. Throughout the 18-month detention and three-week trial, his parents have stood beside him, privately insisting that the youngster's involvement in terrorist ideology was merely a "phase" he had now grown out of.
Others, including locals in Alva, appeared oblivious to Siddique's extremist bent. William Tainsh, who lives on the same street as the Siddiques and said he had known the family for 20 years, saw Atif the week before his arrest. "He was his same affable self, very nice and approachable," Mr Tainsh said. "He was a pleasant, outstanding laddie. He was hiding something, it would seem. But we knew nothing about that."
Siddique's actions also failed to arouse concerns among members of the local Muslim community, some of whom appeared to mistake his growing obsession with terrorist ideology for a deepening commitment to Islam. After his detention, there was widespread outrage among Clackmannanshire's 200-300 Muslim residents at perceived heavy-handed tactics by the police. Some of them still see Siddique as a victim of over-zealous prosecutors.
One friend of the family, who knew Siddique from his attendance at Alloa Mosque, said he had not suspected him of extremism. "There was no indication of that, nothing untoward about him," he said. "I always thought of him as being quite religious. He kept out of trouble at school, did his work. He was a well-behaved Scottish kid, he didn't cause anyone any harm."
Despite expressing alarm at Siddique's actions, some fellow students appeared to view him as a fantasist, someone who talked up his terrorist credentials. But his online mentors - who had spent years grooming Siddique in preparation for their terrorist purposes - appeared to view the youngster's intentions with greater clarity.
In one exchange on a Jihadist chat forum which was intercepted by police, Siddique was told by one terrorist sympathiser to make a "strategic return" to the family fold. "The reason is we know what you desire to do for the sake of Allah," he wrote.
One of the key figures alleged to have aided Siddique on his path to radicalisation is a man from the north of England, who cannot be named for legal reasons. He is suspected of being a major recruiting agent and handler for the Islamic cause, and is related to a central figure in a Canadian suicide bomb team with whom security sources claim Siddique was involved.
When Siddique was stopped by two Special Branch officers at Glasgow Airport on April 5, 2006, Britain's security services had been monitoring his online activity for months.
According to security sources, they believed that he was travelling to Pakistan and then Canada to join alleged Islamic extremists planning large-scale terror attacks in Ontario. Their alleged mission included detonating truck bombs, massacring shoppers and storming the Canadian Broadcast Centre and parliament building. They also allegedly planned to behead Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other leaders. Twelve men and five teenage boys are in custody in connection with the alleged attacks.
A source close to the investigation said yesterday: "The security services got intelligence that Siddique was about to leave Glasgow Airport for Pakistan where he would completely go off the radar. Special Branch were asked to detain him without delay and under no circumstances to let him board the Pakistan-bound flight. They feared that if Siddique got into Pakistan he would disappear and never come back."
After a massive police operation and three-week trial, Siddique has years ahead of him in prison where he can mull over what might have become of his grandiose ambitions as a "wannabe" suicide bomber.
12:09am Tuesday 18th September 2007
MIM: The Muslim community practices damage control stating the grievance is legitimate but blowing people up will be counter productive.
Leaders warn against terror methodsMuslims in Scotland should express their concerns about the war in Iraq through legitimate means and not turn to terrorism, community leaders have urged. The warning came after the conviction of student Mohammed Atif Siddique on a series of terrorism charges.
The 21-year-old "wannabe suicide bomber" gathered CDs and videos featuring Islamic terrorist material and threatened to blow up Glasgow.
Osama Saeed, Scottish spokesman for the Muslim Association of Britain, said Muslims needed to show any distaste at Western foreign policy through legitimate channels.
He said: "What we heard throughout the trial was a story of a teenager who was involved in ideas, particularly on the internet, which he shouldn't have been. This was motivated clearly by his concern for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, wars in which our country is still involved.
"The challenge for the Muslim community and wider society is to stress the legitimate forms of dissent against these policies - through the democratic process. This is important as we see constant attacks on Muslims who engage with politics as engendering a 'grievance culture'."
He added: "Muslims will undoubtedly continue to care deeply about what happens abroad and it's vital that this feeling is represented and articulated through our democratic channels."
Central Scotland Police assistant chief constable Maureen Brown said the prosecution of Siddique was "not about faith". And Superintendent Andrew Price added: "The community has responded maturely and responsibly to the events which unfolded on April 13 2006.
"I would reiterate that Central Scotland Police and the community of Clackmannanshire will not tolerate intolerance towards any member of the public because of race or religion."
But heightened tensions have already shown themselves, with the Siddique family's shop in Alva, Clackmannanshire, being vandalised just hours after the alleged terror attack on Glasgow airport.
--------------Timeline: Alva terror trial Mohammed Atif Siddique has been found guilty of three terrorism offences after standing trial at the High Court in Glasgow.
Here is a summary of key events in the case.
17 SEPTEMBER 2007
After deliberating for nearly nine hours over three days, the jury returns guilty verdicts.
22 AUGUST 2007 Atif Siddique's trial begins at the High Court in Glasgow. He is charged with five offences, which he denies. The charges include possessing articles useful to a person preparing for an act of terrorism, such as instructions on bomb-making and guerrilla tactics. He is also accused of putting details on websites to encourage terrorism.
11 JULY 2007
Donald Findlay QC, Atif Siddique's lawyer, warns that the case against his client could be prejudiced in the wake of the failed Glasgow and London attacks.
30 AND 31 JUNE 2007
The Siddique family's shop in Alva is vandalised just hours after the terror attack on Glasgow Airport. The shop is targeted again the following day.
4 APRIL 2007
Atif Siddique is told he will stand trial in August. Among the charges facing him are allegations that he claimed to be a member of al-Qaeda and threatened to become a suicide bomber.
3 NOVEMBER 2006
Atif Siddique makes his first public appearance at the High Court in Glasgow and denies five charges under the Terrorism Act.
23 OCTOBER 2006
Atif Siddique is excused a first public appearance in court because he is celebrating the end of Ramadan.
5 May 2006
Atif Siddique makes a second appearance at a special court, this time sitting at Polmont Young Offenders' Institution. He again makes no plea or declaration and is committed for trial.
28 APRIL 2006
Asif Siddique is released. Speaking on the steps of Govan police station after his release, he says: "From the start I have always said I was innocent. I don't know why I was detained. Now I just want to get home to my family."
27 APRIL 2006
Atif Siddique is formally charged under Section 58 (1) (b) of the Terrorism Act 2000 in a special court hearing at Falkirk police station. Atif Siddique makes no plea at the hearing, which is conducted amid tight security. Bail is refused.
26 APRIL 2006
Mohammed Rafiq and Mohammed Niaz are released. Police are granted extra time to question Siddique. Mr Rafiq had come from Pakistan to visit family in Alva and was planning to return when he was detained, according to Mr Anwar.
24 APRIL 2006
Three more men are arrested under anti-terrorism law. Atif Siddique's older brother, Asif Siddique, 24, and his uncle Mohammed Rafiq, 40, are detained at an address in Alva while a third man, 46-year-old businessman Mohammed Niaz, is detained in Bridge of Allan, near Stirling.
19 APRIL 2006
A sheriff grants officers a further seven days to question Atif Siddique. His lawyer Aamer Anwar says: "He has had no contact with his mother or father. He is being subjected to several hours of questioning a day and sleeps in a cell with lighting on 24-hours a day being kept under observation. I believe all this may have an impact on his emotional and physical well-being."
14 APRIL 2007
Police are granted a further five days to question Siddique after a private hearing at the high-security Helen Street police station in Govan, Glasgow, where he is being held. Lawyer Aamer Anwar says his client had been questioned from 0845 BST until midday, and from 0745 until 2300 BST the previous day.
13 APRIL 2006
Teams of police officers arrest Atif Siddique during a dawn raid on his family's home and adjoining shop in Alva, Clackmannanshire. Shocked neighbours of the town describe Atif Siddique as a quiet, well mannered boy who regularly served behind the counter of the shop. Some of them described seeing men in suits sitting in cars watching the shop in the days leading up to the raid.
5 APRIL 2006
Atif Siddique and his uncle Mohammed Rafik are detained by Special Branch detectives in the international departures lounge of Glasgow Airport as they prepare to fly to Pakistan for three months. A laptop computer is taken from Siddique, which is later found to a number of videos on it including one showing Osama Bin Laden urging Jihad against the West.
Atif Siddique is alleged to have posted links to military techniques, weapon and bomb making instructions and how to conceal booby traps on websites he owns.
Atif Siddique enrols at Glasgow Metropolitan College, where he is given the nicknames "Suicide Bomber" and "al-Qaeda" by fellow student Razia Hussain. Ms Hussain later tells Atif Siddique's trial how he said he wanted to "blow up Glasgow" and had met Osama Bin Laden. Communications lecturer Brian Glancey claims to have found Atif Siddique watching videos of suicide bombers in class. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/6978227.stm