Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Teen Admits to Plotting Nail Bomb Attack on Elton John Concert
Haroon Syed was snared by undercover Mi5 agents posing as extremists as he plotted the devastating 'mass casualty' attack.
The 19-year-old from Hounslow, west London, pleaded guilty this morning at the Old Bailey to a charge of preparation of terrorist acts between April and September last year - after a last-ditch attempt to get his case thrown out failed.
Elton John's Hyde Park concert for BBC Radio 2 - attended by around 50,000 fans - went ahead last September without incident after Syed was arrested in the days leading up to the gig.
During the case it was revealed he had researched ISIS online - and even used their name as a password for his phone.
Other possible targets had been thought to be Buckingham Palace and the busy shopping hub of Oxford Street.
The court heard how Syed tried to obtain weapons online - including a bomb vest and explosives - and trawled the web to find a busy area in the capital such as Oxford Circus to launch his attack.
Syed was caught after chatting online with officers from the British Security Services who posed as a fellow extremist who could help him source the weapons.
Judge Michael Topolski QC adjourned sentencing until June 8 for a probation and psychiatric report to be done.
He said Syed faced a "discretionary life sentence".
As Syed was being drawn in by agents, his older brother was jailed for plotting an Islamic State-inspired Poppy Day attack.
At an earlier hearing, the court heard how key evidence was gathered from Syed's communications with the fake contact Abu Yusuf via mobile phone and social media.
Syed asked for "gear" for his "opp" and when asked to give details, he said he needed a machine gun and an explosive vest "so after some damage with machine gun do martyrdom ... that's what I'm planning to do."
When Abu Yusuf said it would be costly, the defendant told him he was "broke" but pressed on, saying: "You have to find out the price for the machine gun, any gun."
Initially Syed cried off meeting his contact, complaining that he was being followed by police who will "have eyes on me if I come".
An officer pretended to be Abu Yusuf when they did finally get together at a Costa Coffee in Slough and their conversation was taped.
Throughout August, the discussions continued about making or getting a bomb and acquiring a gun, even though Syed confessed he had never used one before.
On August 30, Syed stressed that he needed a "portable" device, saying: "I might put the bomb in the train and then I'm going to jump out so the bomb explodes on the train ... So ask the brother if he can make that type of bomb with button."
Meanwhile, he researched targets and they arranged to pick up the bomb in exchange for £150 the following week.
Syed asked Abu Yusuf to make sure there were lots of nails in it and added: "I was thinking of Oxford Street ... If I go to prison, I go to prison. If I die, I die, you understand."
The court heard he searched the internet for IS, past terrorist attacks, and potential locations which included an Elton John concert in Hyde Park on September 11 last year.
Police moved in to arrest the defendant at his home on September 8 and his phone was seized.
Asked for the password to unlock the device, Syed said: "Yeah I.S.I.S - you like that?"
In legal papers prepared for his defence, Syed was described as "highly vulnerable due to family history, lack of education, addiction to violent online games and the arrest and imprisonment of his brother".
He was groomed by radicals online but he never intended to carry out an attack as his chats with the agent were a "fantasy to see how far it would go", according to his defence statement.
Syed entered his guilty plea in the wake of an unsuccessful attempt to either get the case thrown out, or exclude the key evidence from the online chat.
His lawyer Mark Summers QC argued he should have been given help by the Prevent de-radicalisation group rather than steered in the opposite direction.
He said: "The proper response of the State should have been to engage Prevent to help this young man, to steer him away from the path it was feared he was going down, rather than guiding him down it."
But the judge refused Mr Summers' application and instead offered an indication of what Syed's likely sentence would be if he admitted the offence, following a defence request.
at 10:13 PM