UK

Teenage terror suspect tells court of 'ninja' jibes

Court drawing of Safaa Boular at the Old Bailey Image copyright Julia Quenzler

A teenage girl accused of plotting an attack on the British Museum in London said she was drawn to Syria after facing discrimination in the UK, a court has heard.

Giving evidence to the Old Bailey, Safaa Boular, 18, said people called her names like "ninja, umbrella and postbox" because of her Islamic dress.

Ms Boular, from Vauxhall in south-west London, is accused of two counts of preparing acts of terrorism.

She denies both charges.

Ms Boular has been accused of planning to travel to Syria to join IS militants and later preparing to carry out a terrorist attack in London after her fiancé, an Islamic State fighter, died.

Her sister, Rizlaine, 22, of Clerkenwell, London, has already admitted planning a knife attack.

But Ms Boular's defence lawyer, Joel Bennathan QC, says the teenager, who was then aged 17, was "groomed" by her fiancé, Naweed Hussain, and her family encouraged it.

'Changed'

Giving evidence to her trial, Ms Boular said she no longer considers herself to be religious and, since being in prison, has had the opportunity to speak to people from different backgrounds.

She said: "When I was out I was pretty much isolated, so everything I knew was Islam and nothing but Islam.

"Since I have had the chance to speak to people I would not normally speak to - boys, people of different faiths, people of different cultures - I'm picking up morals and beliefs from other people."

Ms Boular told the court that when she first came in contact with an Islamic State recruiter on Twitter, she "did not know" that she was linked to the group, adding: "I thought she was a radical jihadi woman.

"She persuaded me about Hijra (migration) to Islamic land - to Syria."

Image copyright Julia Quenzler
Image caption Ms Boular answered questions from her defence lawyer, Joel Bennathan

Ms Boular said her main influences were her sister and the recruiter and she became used to watching gruesome beheading videos.

But, asked by her barrister, Mr Bennathan, whether she had changed over the last year, Ms Boular replied: "Yes, I have."

She said: "Seeing these videos again it struck a few strings and I started crying because I could not believe these were the videos I used to watch before."

'Called me names'

The defendant, who was wearing a smart black cardigan and leggings, added that she wanted to leave Britain because she was "covered up" and "faced a lot of discrimination".

"A lot of people called me names in the street - ninja, umbrella and postbox - but out there all the women are the same," she said.

Speaking from the witness box, Ms Boular said the IS recruiter told her that Syria was a "very nice" place to live and that she would be married.

"At the time I was reading a lot of romantic stories," Ms Boular said. "For me, I wanted to be married and have a romantic relationship.

The court heard how, by August 2016, Ms Boular was chatting online to Naweed Hussain, her prospective husband in Syria. She said most of the messages were "lovey-dovey".

Ms Boular said she had "surreal" conversations with Hussain about wearing his-and-her suicide belts and that he told her they would "go to paradise together".

Rizlaine Boular, of Clerkenwell, central London, has admitted planning a knife attack on London and mother Mina Dich, 44, has pleaded guilty to assisting her.

The trial continues.

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