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UK Muslim convert jailed for 18 years for restaurant bomb attack

January 31, 2009

Nicky Reilly, Muslim convert, jailed for 18 years for Exeter bomb attack

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Nicky Reilly

(Lewis Whyld/PA)

Nicky Reilly, who was jailed for at least 18 years today

Adam Fresco, Crime Correspondent
From Times Online (London) January 30, 2009 #yiv900775827 div#related-article-links p a, #yiv900775827 div#related-article-links p a:visited { color:#06c;}

A vulnerable Muslim convert who was persuaded online by shadowy Pakistan-based extremists into trying to carry out a suicide bomb attack on a busy restaurant was jailed for a minimum of 18-years today.

Nicky Reilly, 22, who has Asperger's syndrome and a mental age of 10, was described as the "least cunning" person ever to have been charged with terrorism.

He was directed how to build bombs filled with hundreds of nails, which he attempted to detonate at the Giraffe restaurant in Exeter in May.

But the devices went off prematurely and the only person injured was him.


Men who groomed Exeter bomber still on the loose

Extremists who groomed Nicky Reilly, the Muslim convert who tried to blow himself up in a shopping centre in Exeter, may still be on the loose.

By Duncan Gardham, Security Correspondent
Last Updated: 9:38AM GMT 31 Jan 2009

Reilly, 22, was sentenced to life in jail with a minimum of 18 years, after a judge found that his mental condition had played no role in his decision to launch the attack and he remained an "extremely high risk."

Reilly, who pleaded guilty, was groomed by two men who claimed to be in touch with al-Qaeda in the tribal areas of Pakistan, and police have admitted they could be on the loose in Britain.

One of the men, who used the name Adal Khan, had asked Reilly to try and get him a job in a travel agents, police sources said.

Officers are struggling to identify Khan, whose real name is thought to be Asif. Devon and Cornwall Assistant Chief Constable Debbie Simpson said: "There is still part of the investigation that is ongoing and we are in contact via the British Embassy with the Pakistani authorities. That is still a live investigation."

It also emerged yesterday that the police were alerted to Reilly five years before he launched his attacks.

A psychiatrist treating Reilly, who suffers from Asperger's syndrome, a mild form of autism, informed police that his patient was obsessed with the September 11 attacks and wanted to be a terrorist, police sources say.

Assistant Chief Constable Simpson, whose force led the inquiry, told the Daily Telegraph that no offences had been committed when they received the report about Reilly in 2003.

She added: "We monitored the situation and a few months later Reilly retracted the statement to his psychiatrist.

"We have to be proportionate and justified in what we do and we regarded this as a mental health issue. We do not have the resources to monitor every individual."

But Mrs Simpson said Reilly's attacks on the Giraffe family restaurant in the Princess Hay shopping centre have alerted police to the risks of ignoring depressed and mentally ill individuals who may be vulnerable to extremists.

"There is now a national strategy that recognises enforcement activity is not always the best way and that we can use role models and family support to divert individuals from extremist activity, as well as monitoring," she said.

The Assistant Chief Constable also called on websites such as Youtube the video sharing website where Reilly watched films of September 11 and learned how to make his bombs to be more responsible.

"Any website that shows how to make a bomb or shows acts of murder needs to ensure the content is more appropriate," she said.

Reilly, who calls himself Mohamad Abdulaziz Rashid Saeed-Alim after two of the September 11 hijackers, caught a bus from Plymouth to Exeter on May 22 last year carrying the ingredients for his bombs in bottles in a rucksack.

After wondering around Exeter town centre he made his way to the newly opened Princess Hay shopping centre where he bought a diet coke at the Giraffe restaurant before making his way to a cubicle in the toilets.

He was mixing the ingredients with caustic soda when they blew up in his face.

Sentencing him yesterday at the Old Bailey, Mr Justice Calvert-Smith said: "I am quite convinced that no one in the restaurant, whether they realised another human being was trying to kill them or not, will ever be the same again.

"They now know how close to death they came."

He said Reilly had been planning his attack for months and added: "His mental illness played no part in his decision to do what he did and he has not hidden behind it."

Reilly, a "gentle" loaner who has an IQ of 83, had been treated by a psychiatrist since the age of nine after exhibiting behavioural problems and took an overdose when he was 16 because he had been rejected by a girl and felt his father had abandoned him.

He was later admitted to a mental hospital after stabbing himself in the leg and discharged after three weeks but a psychiatrist continued to treat him for anxiety and depression and his condition later stabilised.

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