Walsall terror cell: Three jailed over Syria plot
Three members of a Black Country terror cell who plotted to smuggle unborn babies and children into Syria have been jailed for a total of 17-and-a-half years with a fourth avoiding prison.
Ayman Shaukat, aged 28, Alex Nash, 22, Kerry Thomason, 24, and Lorna Moore, 34, all from Walsall, were today sentenced to terms ranging between two years suspended imprisonment and 10 years in jail at the Old Bailey in London.
Judge Charles Wide QC said the defendants were either 'dedicated to terrorism and violent jihad' or had helped those who were.
Ring leader Shaukat, of Pargeter Street, was handed 10 years in prison with five years extended licence after acting as the 'fixer' for the extremist group Islam Walsall which has seen at least five members join ISIS in the so-called Islamic State. He was found guilty of assisting his friends Sajid Aslam and Nash to travel to the war-torn country to engage in terrorism after a three week trial earlier this year.
Judge Wide said he posed a 'significant risk' to the public: "Aslam was plainly went there to fight. He was a dedicated terrorist fighter.
"Nash would have been a fighter had he not been intercepted.
"With your ability to deceive I am satisfied that you present a significant risk to members of the public of causing serious harm."
Nash, of Bentley Road, will serve five behind bars with an additional one year licence period after pleading guilty to trying to join ISIS with his pregnant wife Yousma Jan, then 20.
Judge Wide said: "You went to fight for ISIS and you went to great lengths. You were dedicated to the cause." But he said he was 'persuaded' he was not a risk to the public.
Mum of three Thomason, whose address cannot be disclosed for legal reasons, was given a two year prison sentence suspended for two years plus a one year supervision order and will be placed on an election tag with a curfew between 6pm and 6am after pleading guilty to assisting her husband Isaiah Siadatan to prepare for acts of terrorism. She also attempted to travel to Syria while pregnant with her youngest child. Their three children have been placed in the care of social services.
The judge said he did not think she was an 'ISIS supporter' but added: "There is a naivety about you but you knew perfectly well he was going to fight."
And teacher Moore, of Glebe Street, was found guilty of failing to tell security services that her husband Sajid Aslam was intending to travel to Syria and join ISIS.
Her trial heard she also intended to travel to the Islamic State with her three children.
Sentencing her to two-and-half years in prison, judge Wide said:"You knew perfectly well of your husband's dedication and there was clear evidence of it. You are a very strong character. One of the troubling things about you is your ability at telling lies."
West Midlands Police Counter Terrorism Unit smashed the jihadist cell in Walsall in October 2014 after Jacob Petty, 26, the son of a Church of England vicar Sue Boyce, confessed via email he was in Syria to become a 'soldier' of the Islamic State.
He met up with his friends Aslam and Siadatan - the husbands of the two female defendants - who have also separately travelled to Syria in 2014.
Petty was killed in fighting and it is also believed that Siadatan, the brother of Apprentice winner Yasmina, is also dead.
But last month Aslam sent a sensational email to the Express & Star claiming to be a teacher in Turkey and demanded his wife be set free. Today he was described as a 'patent terrorist' by the judge.
At least two others associated with the Islam Walsall group - including a pregnant women - have made it to Syria.
The Express & Star revealed earlier this year how significantly the plot dreamt up in Walsall during 2014 planned to smuggle at least four pregnant women and four young children into the Islamic State.
It was also noteworthy that Nash, Moore and Thomason are all Muslim converts.
Convicted burglar Shaukat was separately drove both Aslam, and Nash and his pregnant wife Yousma Jan, 20, to Stansted and Birmingham Airport.
He also arranged Nash and Jan's affairs which they were abroad, including emptying their flat.
He was treasurer and later vice-chairman of Islam Walsall which had a meeting house dubbed the Walsall Islamic Centre in Bradford Lane.
The group was sympathetic to ISIS, had stalls at Walsall Market, and once hosted a Christmas Day conference with cronies of the hook-handed radical cleric Abu Hamza, who was jailed in January last year for multiple charges, including hostage-taking and plotting to set up a terrorism training camp in the US.
Shaukat, who worked in Essington, Walsall and Smethwick, was nicknamed the Caldmore Chameleon by counter terrorism police for his ability to repeatedly change his story.
He communicated with Aslam via 'code' using mobile phone apps.
Thomason, who married Siadatan in an Islamic ceremony when they were both 17, bought her husband a new laptop so she could communicate with him in Syria and drove him to Birmingham Airport.
Moore was a trainee maths teacher and also taught at the Islamic school connected to Wolverhampton's main mosque.
Nash converted to Islam when he was 18 and was known for his religious rap videos on YouTube.
Assistant Chief Constable Marcus Beale, who leads on counter-terrorism across the West Midlands, said: "I hope the sentences today will act as a clear deterrent to those planning to travel or assist others in travelling to fight with Daesh.
"This was a complex and protracted police investigation by a small team of dedicated officers from the force's CTU. The investigation identified a number of people intent on travelling to Syria including vulnerable children to a conflict zone and be exposed to many dangers. Officers managed to intercept and disrupt further plans to travel.
"There is always the danger that our local people will be trained and come back and be a threat to the UK. We also need to be aware of the far reaching effects on local communities and the families of those involved.
"I would like to thank the communities of Walsall for their patience and support shown to our officers while the investigation was on-going. Officers also worked closely with partner agencies in the town to safeguard vulnerable children who may have been put at risk if they had travelled to the area."
"In recent months we have seen the dangers of trained terrorists returning to Europe to commit acts of terrorism which emphasises how important it is for officers to prevent travel.
"If anyone is concerned that a friend or family member is thinking of travelling to Syria it is very important that they tell us as soon as possible. Police and other agencies can offer support to help safeguard those who are vulnerable to radicalisers.
"The sooner we can intervene, the better chance we have of preventing people from becoming embroiled in the conflict and facing potential prosecution."
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