Jihadi who plotted to use sword for terror attack is jailed for life

Drill-rapping jihadi who plotted to use gladiator sword bought with his benefits to commit lockdown terror attack just weeks after his release from prison is jailed for life

  • Sahayb Abu, 27, bought 18-inch sword, knife, balaclavas and body armour online
  • He was arrested on July 9 after discussing guns with undercover police officer
  • He met the officer on a Telegram chat group for supporters of the Islamic State
  • Abu previously said that he wanted to become a successful rapper like Stormzy
  • Jury found Abu guilty of plotting terrorist acts after discussing for over 21 hours

 Jobless Sahayb Abu (pictured), 27, from Dagenham, east London, bought an 18-inch sword, a knife, balaclavas and body armour online as he prepared to strike last summer

A drill-rapping jihadi dubbed the Masked Menace has been jailed for at least 19 years for plotting a terror attack in lockdown just weeks after he was released from prison.

Jobless Sahayb Abu, 27, from Dagenham, east London, bought an 18-inch sword, a knife, balaclavas and body armour online as he prepared to strike last summer.

He was arrested on July 9 after discussing guns with an undercover police officer, who he met on a Telegram chat group for supporters of Islamic State. 

Abu, a Somali-born British citizen,  claimed he wanted to become a successful rapper like Stormzy, who wore a stab vest on stage at Glastonbury.

The jihadi was previously jailed for breaking into a jewellery store in a suspected effort to raise funds to travel abroad for terrorism.

He was not charged with a terrorist offence but mixed with other convicts in Wandsworth Prison. 

One included Husnain Rashid, who had been sentenced to 19 years for encouraging attacks on Prince George at his school in south west London.

He also associated with Abuthaher Mamun who had been jailed for 13 years for showing ISIS videos to schoolchildren.

Abu is the sixth member of his family to have become involved with ISIS, including two who died fighting in Syria.

A jury found him guilty of plotting terrorist acts after deliberating for more than 21 hours.

Sahayb in one of a series of homemade videos he sent to his brother Muhamed on June 30 last year, which was shown at the Old Bailey

The Old Bailey heard how Sahayb (pictured) chatted about firearms with an undercover police officer he met through an Islamic State supporters’ Telegram chat group

His brother Muhamed Abu, 32, of Norwood, south London, was cleared of failing to tell authorities about the plot.

On Tuesday, Sahayb Abu was jailed for life with a minimum term of 19 years at the Old Bailey.

Sentencing Abu, Judge Mark Dennis QC told him: ‘You of all people, having seen what befell your two younger brothers when they signed up to join the Isis cause in 2015 and having seen the course other members of your family have taken… resulting in prison sentences, should have made you, at the mature age of 27, turn your back on the violent extremist cause and promote instead peace and community that underlies the Islamic faith.

‘Instead, within weeks of your own release, you joined others committed to joining that same cause.

Sahayb has been accused of buying an 18-inch sword (pictured) before his arrest

‘Within no time you were getting ready to carry out your own act of violence on the streets of this city.

‘To this date you have yet to express any remorse for your actions.’

The judge said he was satisfied Abu had everything he needed for a ‘lone wolf’ attack and would have carried it out but for the intervention of police.

He added: ‘All that remained for him to decide was the time and place for him to carry out the act of violence in furtherance of the cause he supported.’

Judge Dennis also commended the work of the undercover officer known as Rachid whose evidence helped convict the defendant.

Abu claimed he was a ‘humanitarian’ who was trying to launch an agricultural charity called ‘Islamic Growth’ after watching videos by Alan Titchmarsh.

Another scheme involved selling a date-based smoothie called ‘Date – healthy and wealthy’ to City workers.

An amateur rapper, he claimed he had bought the combat vest to emulate rappers such as Stormzy in a mock drill rap video. The sword was a ‘boy’s toy’ to do ‘moves’ from the film Gladiator, he claimed.

Despite his comical persona, police believe he had shown ‘real vitriol and extreme hatred’ for certain groups of people with ‘repeated reference to taking action’.

Following the verdicts, Commander Richard Smith said Sahayb Abu (pictured in a police handout image) was a ‘very dangerous individual’, despite portraying himself as a clownish aspiring rapper called Masked Menace

Muhamed Abu (pictured), from South Norwood, southeast London, denies failing to disclose information about acts of terrorism under the Terrorism Act 2000 about his brother

His phone revealed he had downloaded ISIS videos, ranted about disbelievers and become obsessed with knife attacks, including the killings in Reading last June.

Abu was released from prison in March last year and began talking about launching an attack before using the £100 Covid bonus of his universal credit to buy weapons.

The items included an 18-inCH Persian Qama sword, a tradesman’s knife, a balaclava and a camouflage hat, along with a combat vest. In his wardrobe was a black IS flag.

He told his brothers there was ‘something called biding your time waiting for right moments’ and Allah would make them ‘action men and not chatty men’.

In another message, he told them: ‘Wallahi [I swear] I pray to Allah and I aspire not to live to be 30… 30 and do what??? Get married and eat food.’

He joined a radical chatroom on the encrypted Telegram app called Servants of the Unseen, writing on June 22: ‘Time for talk over 100 per cent. Talking is over. The Kuffar aren’t talking, that’s for sure.’

Sahayb bought a Persian ‘Qama knife’ and a smaller blade after chatting to his older sibling on iMessage about their fervent belief in the death cult, it was said. Pictured, he also purchased a balaclava, left, and a combat hat, right

The Old Bailey heard Sahayb Abu (pictured), 27, from Dagenham in Essex, had aspirations to become a parody drill rap star on TikTok

This is the outfit Sahayb Abu, 27, wanted to wear as he ran amok with an 18-inch gladiator-style sword during a terror attack he planned last summer

Abu asked an undercover officer known as Rachid about getting hold of a gun but said he was waiting for his older brother Ahmed – who had been jailed alongside him – to be released before deciding what to do.

But he also told the officer he wanted to ‘get it done rather than talk,’ leading senior officers to make the decision to move in for an arrest on July 9 last year.

Abu shared videos of himself in ‘militant wear’ and ‘camo inghimasi’ – a reference to a suicide attacker – rapping that he was a ‘bad man’.

On July 5, three days after buying the sword, he recorded a rap saying: ‘Allah arrest him my shank penetrate ya, got my suicide vest one click boom and I’ll see you later.’

The rap included the line: ‘I’m trying to see many Lee Rigby’s heads rolling on the ground,’ a reference to the soldier murdered in Woolwich in May 2013.

Abu bore a marked hatred for police, commenting they were ‘only good for dying’, and he had been researching foreign embassies.

In a message posted to his brother, next to an image of himself in a hat and mask, he said: ‘Strike fear in fakes, there’s an epidemic so I say, no face no case, kuffar [non-believer] women clutch their purse, like who’s this nutcase?’

Muhamed Abu (left), 32, knew all about his relative’s views and was under a legal obligation to tell the authorities what Sahayb (right) was up to but did not, jurors heard

In a transcript of Abu’s (pictured) conversation with undercover police officer Rachid, Abu returned to the subject of guns, saying: ‘You were talking about this… You can get silah (guns) in here’

A photograph of an unknown police officer was sent on a chat group. The image was shown at the Old Bailey, London, during the trial of the brothers

Abu’s trial previously heard several of his relatives had been linked to extremism in the past.

His half-brothers Wail and Suleyman Aweys went to Syria in 2015, where they are both believed to have died.

Two years later, the Abu brothers were caught with their older half-brother Ahmed Aweys putting up poppy posters in east London saying British tax was used to ‘kill Muslims’.

On his release from prison on March 20 last year, he went from being ‘locked up to locked down’ as the Covid-19 pandemic struck, jurors heard.

Over the next three months, he trawled the internet for IS propaganda, including pictures of fighters in balaclavas with guns.

He spent his £400 monthly benefits on two balaclavas, body armour, gloves, a camouflage hat and two blades, including an 18-inch sword, paying extra to get it sharpened.

He posed in his combat gear in homemade videos sent to Muhamed Abu.

He boasted the balaclava would ‘do the job’ and said he was ‘just waiting on the body armour… the body armour stop a bullet’.

In his defence, Abu denied buying the sword and combat gear for a terror attack.

He dismissed extremist posts as ‘trolling’ and claimed he joined the Telegram group to attract women with his ‘bravado’.

He claimed to hate IS, saying his interest in the terror group was for news of his lost half-brothers.

His lawyer Michael Ivers QC said the personas – ‘merciless troll’, ‘Jihadi fan boy’ and ‘wannabe drill rapper’ – all betrayed a desperate desire to be accepted.

Sahayb Abu has no previous terror-related convictions but was caught drug dealing in France and having a knife.

But Judge Dennis noted on his brother Muhamed Abu’s account, the defendant would ‘come up with all these ideas and never follow through’.

The ‘big difference’ was Sahayb Abu had ‘actively done things’ to prepare for an attack, he said.

As he was sent down to begin his sentence, Sahayb Abu addressed the judge, saying: ‘Thank you very much.’ 

Sahayb Aweys Munye Abu, 27, was arrested by officers from the Met Police Counter Terrorism Command during raids in London and Leicestershire on July 9. Pictured: One of the raids in London

A squad of officers burst into a house on Ilfracombe Gardens in Goodmayes, Redbridge, during the arrests last year, while another armed squad raided a property near Green Lane by Goodmayes Park

Who are Sahayb Abu and the rest of his family?

Sahayb Abu, 27:

Born in Somalia, the ISIS convert was the ‘typical middle child’ in a family of 11.

Failing at school and playing the ‘clown’ at home, Sahayb told jurors his strict Muslim father ‘beat the Quran into him’ from a young age.

The patriarch had a second marriage with another wife with whom he also had nine children, and the two families stayed close throughout their childhood.

Sahayb said of his half-siblings: ‘We would sleep in the same bed, eat from the same plate, ride the same bikes. It was just like having brothers and sisters.’

During his teenage years his two half-brothers, Wail and Suleyman Aweys, who are believed to have died fighting with ISIS in Syria, first started showing signs of extremism.

His interest in rap – born out in homemade music videos likened to a car crash X-factor audition by his brother’s defence lawyer – began at Mayfield School in Dagenham.

He would practice rap ‘clashes’ – inspired by grime artists JME, Skepta and Wiley – with other pupils at the college, which was also attended by popstar Jessie J at roughly the same time.

But he spent the rest of his time smoking cannabis and drinking alcohol, flunking his GCSEs at 16 before running away from home and moving to France in 2009.

There, he slept on benches and briefly worked doing odd jobs on the railways before starting a life of petty crime and gambling.

Sahayb said he returned to the UK in 2013 and found a job stacking shelves in Poundstretcher before working for Network Rail.

He said he learnt his two half-brothers had died in Syria in 2017.

Sahayb told jurors he also had legal trouble abroad, landing him in the French courts which he said were ‘less fair’ than the English criminal justice system.

By the time Sahayb was arrested for the terror plot last July 6, he had racked up three convictions in the UK alone including possession of a knife.

While in jail for a commercial burglary in 2019, the jihadi met notorious ISIS supporter Husnain Rashid, who was jailed for two years after calling for an attack on Prince George.

Giving evidence, Sahayb described Rashid as a loner with a reputation among other inmates for being ‘a bit cuckoo.’

But in extremist Telegram chat group Servants of the Unseen, he bragged about his terrorist prison links.

He told the undercover officer that Rashid had shared details of his plan to poison the Royal Family behind bars.

‘You know what his plan was? Say like the Royal Family house is there, go to the nearest Sainsbury’s and put poison in the ice creams so the Royal Family will go and buy the ice creams from there,’ Sahayb told the operative.

Coming from a family steeped in extremism, Sahayb made efforts to separate himself from his relatives throughout the trial, claiming he was ‘ashamed’ of their views.

But the poisonous comments he shared with brothers Mohamed and Suraaka in a three-way chat echoed the messages recovered by police from the family WhatsApp of Asma, Ahmed and two years earlier.

The two siblings – who share the same father as Mohamed and Sahayb Abu – were jailed along with Asma’s partner Abdulaziz Abu Munye for downloading ISIS propaganda.

In the family chat, Asma hailed the Westminster terror attack as an act ‘by the decree of Allah’ and called Ariana Grande ‘the devil’ in the wake of the Manchester Arena tragedy.

Repeat offender Ahmed was on the streets for less than a month following his terrorism sentence before police realised he had a mobile phone in breach of his license conditions.

Officers discovered he had taken a selfie on the device and sent back to jail.

Then in November 2019, he was back before the court for his role in a gold ingot fraud.

When Sahayb returned to the UK in 2016, he reunited with the extremist, along with other members of his family including Mohamed.

He told jurors he knew his older brother’s views were dangerous, but struggled to explain why he had joined him in some his problematic exploits.

In October 2017, the trio were stopped by police on Ilford high street as they pinned up anti-British posters depicting red poppies and skulls and headed: ‘Britain uses your tax money to kill Muslims in Muslim lands.’

They was let off without charge – but each of them went on to commit terrorist offences.

Sahayb has three previous convictions for commercial burglary, possession of a knife and possession of drugs.

Ahmed Aweys, 35:

Notorious terrorist Ahmed Aweys loomed large throughout Sahayb’s trial, with frequent references to the defendant’s ‘extremist’ older brother.

The jihadi was stopped by police in October 2017 with his two half-brothers Muhamed and Sahayb as they pinned up anti-British posters on Ilford high street.

He was let off without charge, but since then has racked up five terror-related convictions.

Ahmed bragged about being ’embedded in their societies, we are the enemy within’ while raking in Universal Credit cash from the government.

Police found he had used an unauthorised bank account belonging to his sister to receive three Department for Work and Pensions payments.

The family’s extremist views were revealed after a tip off that Ahmed and his two half-brothers were planning to burgle a jewellery shop in Ilford Lane, east London.

They were caught red-handed and during searches of their homes during which police also uncovered £60,000 in cash and £10,000 in gold which could not be accounted for.

Ahmed, who shares a father with Sahayb and Muhamed, was jailed for 25 months but was out within 11 months on licence – by which time he landed himself in court again for involvement in a gold ingot fraud.

He had messaged brother-in-law Abdulaziz Abu Munye, a former street robber also related to Sahayb and Mohamed, telling him he was entitled to take from the ‘kuffr’ [infidels].

Then in January last year, he admitted using a secret mobile phone to take selfies, flouting the terms of his terror notification requirements after release.

He used the second mobile because he ‘got bored’ with life under curfew – and his approved phone was ‘rather basic’, the court was told.

The Somali also used his sister’s bank account in order to claim his benefit payments, in a ‘deliberate’ and ‘serious’ rules breach.

Ahmed, of Chadwell Heath in east London, has three convictions for distributing terrorist propaganda and two for breaching the requirements of his terror notification requirements.

He is currently serving his latest sentence of 15 months for breaching the order in prison.

Asmma Aweys, 32: 

Hailing from Edmonton, north London, the mum-of-two was jailed alongside her older brother after praising the Westminster and Manchester Arena terror attacks.

On the family WhatsApp, Asma had branded Ariana Grande ‘the devil’ and described the Westminster atrocity as an act ‘by the decree of Allah.’

Police also found she had downloaded copies of ISIS propaganda magazine Rumiyah which included instructions on how to make napalm and Molotov cocktails.

She claimed in court to have been ‘genuinely shocked by her arrest’ and unaware that there was anything unlawful about the vile comments she was making.

The female jihadi comes from the family-of-nine Sahayb’s father had with his second wife, who lived nearby.

The half-siblings were close growing up, having sleepovers and spending time together after school.

Aweys was jailed for 19 months for two counts of collecting publications useful for a terrorist in January 2019.

Abdul Munye, 29:

Asma’s terrorist husband, Abdul Munye, who lived with her and their two children, shared her views and admitted sending an IS propaganda video to Ahmed.

The appalling footage showed brutal executions, battle scenes and references to attacks in the West.

He was sentenced to 15 months behind bars for distributing terrorist propaganda.

Wail and Suleyman Aweys, the brothers of Ahmed and Asma, are believed to have travelled to Syria in 2015 to fight with ISIS.

Wail is understood to have been killed in an air strike and Suleyman shot in the head.

A police investigation into a conspiracy to burgle a jeweller’s has resulted in three people being jailed for terrorism offences, after detectives uncovered a plethora of violent propaganda on the trio’s phones.

Wail and Suleyman Aweys:

Wail and Suleyman Aweys, the brothers of Ahmed and Asma, are believed to have travelled to Syria in 2015 to fight with ISIS.

Wail is understood to have been killed in an air strike while Suleyman shot in the head.

In his evidence Sahayb painted the pair as devoutly religious while he was growing up, claiming he felt inferior to them because he smoked weed and drank alcohol.

He described the brothers as ‘smart’ and interested in Islamic theology when they were teenagers.

But by 2015 they had become radicalised and made their fateful journey to the Middle East, it is understood.

‘I knew they were very faithful, way more practising than me and I wasn’t practicing at all and I was a bit embarrassed about that,’ Sahayb Abu said.

‘They were smart, they knew I was smoking weed and it was just a bit awkward so I wouldn’t chill with them that much,’ he told jurors.

He said he once bumped into them in a chance meeting at a snooker club in 2015 but it was while he was in the throes of his alleged gambling addiction.

The news that they had died ‘shattered’ the family, Abu said.

The terrorist told how the pair’s mother developed a shock of white hair and ‘withered like a prune’ in the aftermath of her sons’ deaths.

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