British pair who travelled to Syria admit terror charges

Nahin Ahmed and Yusuf Sarwar Image copyright West Midlands Police
Image caption Nahin Ahmed (left) and Yusuf Sarwar admitted terrorism charges

Two British men who went to Syria to join rebel fighters have pleaded guilty to terrorism charges.

Nahin Ahmed and Yusuf Sarwar, both 22 and from Birmingham, admitted preparing to carry out terrorist acts.

They spent eight months in Syria and were arrested by West Midlands Police's counter-terrorism unit at Heathrow Airport on their return in January.

They had travelled to Syria to take part in its civil war after contacting Islamic extremists.

Police believe Ahmed and Sarwar fought with the al-Nusra Front, which is a jihadist group affiliated with al-Qaeda.

Their trial had been due to start but, at Woolwich Crown Court in London, they each admitted one count of engaging in conduct in preparation of terrorism acts, contrary to section five of the Terrorism Act.

A date for sentencing is expected to be confirmed in a few weeks.

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Media captionAssistant Chief Constable Marcus Beale says parents should report any concerns about their children to police

West Midlands Police said they were alerted to the case after Sarwar's parents contacted them in May 2013.

They had found a six-page letter in which their son, who was a computer science undergraduate at Birmingham City University, admitted he had gone "to do jihad" in Syria.

He also left instructions to cancel his mobile phone contract and money to settle outstanding debts.

Image copyright West Midlands Police
Image caption An extract from the letter left by Sarwar before he went to Syria

Prosecutor Brian Altman QC told the court: "Sarwar was not expecting to return to his family and that is because he hoped to die as a martyr."

Police said Ahmed, an unemployed former postal worker, had "considered going to Yemen and had sought advice from a fighter in Syria and from extremists in Denmark and Sweden".

A man living in Denmark, calling himself Abu Usama al-Mujahid, had told him: "You can be a mujahid [fighter] wherever in the world you are. Look at 7/7 from your country."

The men bought one-way tickets to Turkey then crossed the border to Syria - and when they got back officers were "waiting to arrest them", police said.

Image copyright West Midlands Police
Image caption Ahmed (left) and Sarwar went to "considerable lengths" to conceal their plans, police said
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption There has been intense fighting in Aleppo during Syria's civil war

Police added: "Traces of military grade explosives were found on their clothing and pictures on their camera showed them brandishing weapons.

"Detectives used satellite imaging to establish from the photographs that the men had been in and around Aleppo - one of the main conflict zones."

Assistant Chief Constable Marcus Beale said the men had gone to "considerable lengths" to hide their plans from their families, and urged people to tell the police if they suspected a family member was planning to travel to Syria.

"It's not easy to know everything that a family member is doing all of the time, but we encourage parents to hold a healthy interest and curiosity into who their children mix with and who seems to hold a strong influence over them," he said.

He also said officers would try to protect those who were "vulnerable to radicalisers", to prevent them getting involved in crime.

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