Six admit planning to bomb English Defence League rally

Omar Khan, Zohaib Ahmed, Jewel Uddin, Mohammed Saud, Mohammed Hasseen,  Anzal Hussain    (clockwise from top left) Omar Khan, Zohaib Ahmed, Jewel Uddin, Mohammed Saud, Mohammed Hasseen and Anzal Hussain, (clockwise from top left)

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Six men from the West Midlands have pleaded guilty to planning to bomb an English Defence League rally.

Omar Mohammed Khan, Mohammed Hasseen, Anzal Hussain, Mohammed Saud, Zohaib Ahmed and Jewel Uddin admitted preparing an act of terrorism. All six will be sentenced on 6 June.

Five of them took a homemade bomb to an EDL rally in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, last June but arrived after it ended.

They were caught after their car was stopped and found to have no insurance.

Police and security services had no intelligence about the planned attack, although one of the would-be killers, Jewel Uddin, was under surveillance in relation to another terror plan.

After the hearing at Woolwich Crown Court, Assistant Chief Constable of West Midlands Police Marcus Beale said: "Their capability was clear.

Jewel Uddin was under surveillance because of his links to other identified extremists. But he wasn't being watched around the clock because 24-hour coverage only occurs when a suspect is thought to be planning an attack and is in the closing stages of their preparations.

The British police and MI5 don't have the manpower that the East German Stasi once had, so counter-terrorism investigators deal everyday with competing requests for resources for covert operations. Uddin was, in the jargon, a person of interest whom investigators wanted to better understand.

But given what they knew of his connections, did they make the right call? The case has inevitable echoes of 2004 when MI5 had come across a man from West Yorkshire on the periphery of another investigation. They never got to the bottom of who he was until he led the 2005 suicide attacks on London.

"They created devices that would have certainly maimed and possibly killed people depending on how close they were.

"Their intent was very, very clear. In my view they were very dangerous."

Tommy Robinson, aka Stephen Lennon, leader of the EDL, said he welcomed the convictions.

'Female devil'

On 30 June 2012, the EDL, an anti-Islamic group that says it supports peaceful protest, held a rally in Dewsbury, despite attempts by the Muslim community in the town to have it stopped.

Police estimated there could have been as many as 750 EDL supporters in attendance, as well as dozens of police officers and passers-by.

As the rally was taking place, the five men travelled there in two cars, one of which was carrying a homemade bomb constructed out of a modified firework and containing 359 nails and 93 ball bearings.

They also had two sawn-off shot guns, parts of other explosive devices, knives and a long printed message, dated the same day, describing their motivation and calling the Queen a "female devil".

It said: "To the EDL (English Drunkards League). O enemies of Allah! We have heard and seen you openly insulting the final Messenger of Allah... you should know that for every action there is a reaction.

The BBC's June Kelly reports on the background to the case

"Today is a day of retaliation (especially) for your blasphemy of Allah and his Messenger Muhammad. We love death more than you love life. The penalty for blasphemy of Allah and his Messenger Muhammad is death."

However, the men arrived after the EDL rally had broken up because the right-wing group had insufficient speakers to carry on later into the afternoon.

Analysis

No one is yet daring to suggest the era of big, 9/11-scale jihadist terror plots is over, but there is one characteristic that marks out nearly all recent terrorist convictions in Britain: The self starter.

Of the 145 people convicted of terrorism offences in Britain between 2001 and 2012, government officials say an ever-increasing number have become radicalised here and decided to carry out an attack without any formal direction from al-Qaida's leadership.

This is in contrast to the earlier, massive plots like the 2006 liquid bomb plot to blow up several airliners over the Atlantic.

Many of those caught and convicted have embarked on the road to violence by reading inflammatory material online, discussing it on internet chat forums or by reading al-Qaida's online magazine, Inspire.

Often these would-be jihadists then make their own way to Pakistan's tribal territories, hoping to get military training from charismatic leaders.

Sometimes it ends in disappointment and failure.

But officials warn against any complacency. They say just because plots are amateurish that does not stop them posing a serious risk to British lives.

The would-be attackers left the town but were stopped by a traffic police officer on the M1 motorway for having no car insurance.

Days later, when the impounded vehicle was searched, the weapons were found - sparking a manhunt across Birmingham.

Under surveillance

Following their arrests, it emerged that Uddin was already known to the police and MI5.

He was an associate of another group of Islamist terrorists, also based in Birmingham, who were jailed last week for planning an attack to rival the 7 July and 9/11 atrocities.

Uddin was under partial counter-terrorism surveillance, and five days before the aborted EDL attack, a West Midlands surveillance officer watched him and another man go to a homewares shop near his home in the Sparkhill area of Birmingham.

Police later established that the man accompanying Uddin was fellow plotter Omar Khan - and that the pair had bought some of the knives eventually found in the car boot.

A second member of the group, Ahmed, had been separately charged with possession of jihadist magazines that included bomb-making instructions. He was on bail at the time of the failed bombing.

Responding to suggestions police could have arrested Uddin earlier, ACC Beale said: "We didn't fail to join the dots.

"We were doing what was right and proportionate at the time."

Five of the men were from Birmingham - Uddin, 27, and Khan, 28, both from Sparkhill, Ahmed, 22 from Saltley, Hasseen, 23 from Tyseley, and Hussain, 24, from Moseley - and one, Saud, 22, was from Smethwick.

Assistant Chief Constable Marcus Beale says counter-terrorism capabilities have been increased

All changed their pleas from not guilty on Tuesday via videolink, admitting preparing an act of terrorism between 1 May and 4 July 2012.

Mr Robinson told the BBC he believed the plot was targeted at him personally.

The EDL leader said he had intended to travel to Dewsbury to be part of the rally but had been unable to go at the last minute for family reasons.

A statement from the Birmingham Coalition of Muslim Organisations and Mosques, which says it represents most of the city's 230,000 Muslims, said: "The Muslim community in Birmingham wishes to make one thing absolutely clear: These acts are not carried out in our name."

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