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Militant Islam Monitor > Articles > UK shopgirl in Heathrow and dental assistant planned terror attack

UK shopgirl in Heathrow and dental assistant planned terror attack

January 8, 2008

The terrorist and the shop girl
By Dominic Casciani
BBC News

Sohail Qureshi Sohail Qureshi: Under surveillance
"Akhi - Sorry for the late reply. The airport security is still as tight as ever - even more now though."

So said Heathrow shop worker Samina Malik in an e-mail to self-proclaimed al-Qaeda terrorist Sohail Anjum Qureshi.

The interception of that email and other evidence led to Qureshi being jailed for four and a half years after he admitted preparing to commit an act of terrorism overseas.

The east London man, originally from Pakistan, is the first person to be convicted of the key new terrorist offence introduced in 2006.

But it is his online links with Malik, convicted of a lesser charge in 2007, that have revealed details of how some al-Qaeda inspired extremists operate in the shadows.

Second life

Qureshi, 30, may have been a dental assistant in public - but MI5 intelligence and a police investigation revealed a second life.

Samina Malik (Pic: Met Police) Is the checking still very harsh? Or have things cooled down a bit - Delete after read!
Qureshi in e-mail to Malik
'Lyrical Terrorist led double life'
Qureshi wanted to follow a well-trodden path among jihadi activists. He wanted to travel overseas, almost certainly to Afghanistan, and fight in the name of Muslims against those he saw as invaders - US, British or other troops.

According to the police investigation, Qureshi had already told online contacts that he had performed this jihadi rite-of-passage.

He claimed that in 1996 he had joined an al-Qaeda training camp inside Pakistan and gone on to lead another two years later. He said he had helped to finance mujahideen groups.

According to the Metropolitan Police, Qureshi went online to discuss his plans with a key contact in late 2006. The internet is at the heart of many jihadi networks - it provides a degree of anonymity and security for extremists who are sometimes operating in different countries.

The investigation found Qureshi told jihadi contacts he was being called "back" to carry out a "14-20 day operation". He intended to "kill many" while overseas.

Military kit

As the trip date drew closer, Qureshi began gathering military kit, cash and finances.

QURESHI'S KIT Night-vision equipment Night-vision equipment Batons Military manuals
In pictures: Sohail Qureshi case
He bought a pair of night-vision goggles, a back-pack, police-style batons, sleeping bags and camping gear.

He downloaded combat manuals to his computer and had 9,000 in cash, said to be destined for mujahideen fighters he was to meet. Qureshi is thought to have raised the cash among sympathisers in the UK.

In court, his lawyer said that Qureshi was a Walter Mitty figure fantasising about becoming a hero - and that he exaggerated his importance to impress others.

But police also discovered one critical document - an eight-page message for those who would be left behind should he die.

"If I am to become a shaheed [martyr], then cry not and celebrate that day as if you celebrate a happy occasion," he wrote.

The Malik connection

Qureshi's thoughts turned to the practical issues of slipping through Heathrow Airport unnoticed. One of his online contacts was Samina Malik, a 23-year-old woman who worked at a branch of WH Smiths on the airside of the airport - beyond security measures.

Sohail Qureshi posing with a rifle Qureshi: Said he was trained by Al Qaeda in Pakistan
Police believe the pair never met in person - but Malik, convicted last year in a trial which made no mention of Qureshi - was to be key to the operation.

In an October 2006 email, Qureshi asked Malik for an update on security.

"Is the checking still very harsh? Or have things cooled down a bit - Delete after read!" wrote Qureshi.

Malik replied at 4am detailing the security measures, including searching of shoes and checks on liquids. She signed off with a nom de guerre and the line, "A stranger awaiting martyrdom."

Qureshi was never to make his trip. Police were already following him and counter-terrorism officers arrested him as he waited to board his flight to Islamabad on 18 October.

When his bags were searched, police found the military material. A further search of his home uncovered pictures of him posing with rifles in an unknown location and extremist material.

Peter Clarke, Assistant Commissioner of Specialist Operations of the Metropolitan Police, said: "Qureshi is a trained and committed terrorist. He was no amateur. He had a cover story. He researched airport security, he tried to cover his tracks.

"Samina Malik was well aware of Qureshi's violent extremist views and was happy to provide him with advice on security measures at the airport.

"We should all be thankful that the overwhelming evidence against Qureshi left him little choice other than to admit his guilt."



Man jailed for planning 'revenge' terror mission

By Duncan Gardham

Last Updated: 4:53pm GMT 08/01/2008

An al-Qa'eda terrorist who planned to travel from Britain to Afghanistan on a mission of "revenge" has been jailed for four and a half years.

Man jailed for planning 'revenge' terrorist attacks
Qureshi was arrested carrying almost 9,000

Sohail Qureshi, 29, a dental assistant, was stopped at Heathrow airport with military equipment, thousands of pounds in cash and an autobiographical book called "My father the bomb maker."

In internet conversations, Qureshi claimed to have been trained by al-Qa'eda and said he was going to Pakistan, Afghanistan or Waziristan, an area which straddles the borders, for two weeks, adding: "Pray that I kill many, brother. Revenge, revenge, revenge."

Qureshi had been using Samina Malik, a Heathrow sales assistant who dubbed herself the "Lyrical Terrorist", to check the security situation at the airport, the Old Bailey heard.

Qureshi asked her in an email: "Sis, I hope you get this email before anyone else. What is the system like at work? Is the checking still very harsh or have things calmed down a bit?"

She replied using the alias "Umm Musab al-Gharib - A Stranger Awaiting Martyrdom."

Malik, 23, from Southall, West London, was the first Muslim woman to be found guilty of terrorist offences in November last year.

Qureshi, from Forest Gate, East London, is the first person to be convicted under the section five of the Terrorism Act 2006 for the offence of preparing for terrorism.

Man jailed for planning 'revenge' terrorist attacks
Qureshi's defence said he was "something of a Walter Mitty character"

Officers from MI5 and the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command had been watching Qureshi as he prepared to leave the country.

He was arrested at 7.30pm on October 18, 2006 as he prepared to board a flight to Islamabad with a return ticket.

He claimed to be visiting his family for the Muslim festival of Eid but police found he had 1,150 cash in his wallet together with 7,590 stashed in six envelopes around his person and a picture of himself holding an M16 rifle, stored on a CD-Rom.

The CD included snapshots of family and university life along with pictures of mutilated corpses, videos of executions and footage of the 9/11 attacks.

Also among his luggage was 760 of military-style equipment including an optical "night sight", two metal police-style batons, two sleeping bags, two rucksacks, medical supplies and a removable computer hard drive which included a cache of US Marine and Canadian forces combat manuals.

When police searched his home in Forest Gate they discovered a number of photos of him posing with Kalashnikov assault rifles.

They found he had anonymously posted an eight-page "al wida" [farewell] on an Islamic website in which he wrote: "If I am to become a shaheed [martyr], then cry not and celebrate that day as if you celebrate a happy occasion."

In an online conversation with a contact on a site run by at-Tibyan Publications he described how he had trained at an al-Qa'eda training camp in Pakistan in 1996 and was briefly the emir [leader] of another camp in 1998.

He claimed to be a financer and supporter of mujahideen [holy fighters] and talked about the importance of acting alone when doing operations to prevent leaks or moles.

In other internet message logs he talked to the contact about being called "back" to carry out a "14-20 day operation."

He boasted of raising thousands of pounds from sympathisers in Britain which he intended to give to the cause as "bullets cost money" and described the guides, equipment and cash as "gifts" for the fighters he was to meet.

Qureshi was born in Pakistan, the youngest of five children, grew up in Saudi Arabia and lived in Russia for seven years.

He is a qualified dentist and arrived in Britain in 2004 where he worked as a dental assistant in Barking, earning about 1,100 a month.

Sentencing him, Judge Brian Barker QC, the Common Serjeant of London, said: 'These are grave charges. It must be made clear that anyone who takes part in or supports terrorist activities will face a considerable sentence.

'The law-abiding public in this country and abroad expects no less. Any form of terrorism, whatever it is and wherever it is, is an affront to civilisation and can lead to untold grief and destruction."


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