Aspiring rapper found guilty of plotting sword attack after buying sword, combat vest and balaclava

Sahayb Abu, 27, pictured in a handout issued by the Met Police showing him in one of a series of homemade videos he sent to his brother in June last year

Sahayb Abu, 27, pictured in a handout issued by the Met Police showing him in one of a series of homemade videos he sent to his brother in June last year

Sahayb Abu, 27, pictured in a handout issued by the Met Police showing him in one of a series of homemade videos he sent to his brother in June last year

An aspiring rapper has been found guilty of plotting to run amok with an 18-ins gladiator-style sword during the coronavirus lockdown. 

Sahayb Abu, 27, had bought two blades, a combat vest, balaclavas and a camouflage hat online in readiness for the terror attack last summer, the Old Bailey heard.

He was arrested on July 9 after discussing guns with an undercover police officer, who he met on a so-called Islamic State (IS) supporters’ Telegram chat group.

A jury deliberated for 21 hours and 32 minutes to find him guilty of preparing for terrorist acts by a majority of 11 to one.

His brother, Muhamed Abu, 32, wept as he was cleared of failing to disclose information about a plot to authorities.

He appeared distressed at his sibling’s conviction, sobbing: ‘He’s a clown, he’s a buffoon.’

The court heard the pair would fight ‘like Liam and Noel Gallagher’ and Muhamed blamed his younger brother for landing him in the dock over the plot.

Giving evidence Sahayb claimed he was brimming with business ideas including one for a juice drink called ‘Healthily Wealthy’ and another for a gardening charity inspired by Alan Titchmarsh.

He told jurors he would need to become rich and famous to fund the agricultural scheme, which he hoped to achieve by getting his spoof drill videos to go viral on TikTok.

Following the verdicts, Commander Richard Smith said Sahayb Abu was a ‘very dangerous individual’, despite portraying himself as a clownish aspiring rapper called Masked Menace.

Mr Smith, head of the Met’s counter-terrorism command, said: ‘There is no doubt in my mind that Sahayb had murderous intent, some of that was evidenced from the kind of things that he was posting online and sharing with others, including his brother.’

The court heard how some of the defendants’ relatives had been linked to extremism in the past.

Mr Smith declined to speculate on whether the Abu brothers were radicalised within the family, online or in jail, but said: ‘Nobody is born with hatred and intolerance within them.’

Sahayb pictured in one of a series of homemade videos he sent to his brother. Jurors convicted him by a majority of 11 to one after deliberating for 21 hours and 32 minutes

Sahayb pictured in one of a series of homemade videos he sent to his brother. Jurors convicted him by a majority of 11 to one after deliberating for 21 hours and 32 minutes

Sahayb pictured in one of a series of homemade videos he sent to his brother. Jurors convicted him by a majority of 11 to one after deliberating for 21 hours and 32 minutes

A handout photo issued by the Met Police of the 18-ins blade allegedly bought online by Sahayb

A handout photo issued by the Met Police of the 18-ins blade allegedly bought online by Sahayb

A handout photo issued by the Met Police of the 18-ins blade allegedly bought online by Sahayb

The court heard how the defendants’ half-brothers Wail and Suleyman Aweys went to Syria in 2015, where they are both believed to have died.

Two years later, the defendants were caught with their older half-brother Ahmed Aweys putting up poppy posters in east London saying British tax was used to ‘kill Muslims’.

Sahayb Abu went on to associate with known terrorists while serving a sentence for burglary at Wandsworth prison in south London.

Among them was IS supporter Husnain Rashid, who was jailed for at least 25 years in 2018 for calling for an attack on Prince George.

Sahayb Abu was released from prison on March 20 last year, and went from being ‘locked up to locked down’ as the Covid-19 pandemic struck, jurors heard.

Over the next three months, Sahayb Abu trawled the internet for IS propaganda, including pictures of fighters in balaclavas with guns.

Muhamed Abu (pictured above), 32, wept as he was cleared of failing to disclose information about a plot to authorities

Muhamed Abu (pictured above), 32, wept as he was cleared of failing to disclose information about a plot to authorities

Muhamed Abu (pictured above), 32, wept as he was cleared of failing to disclose information about a plot to authorities

He spent his £400 monthly benefits on two balaclavas, body armour, gloves, a camouflage hat and two blades, including an 18in sword, paying extra to get it sharpened.

He posed in his combat gear in homemade videos sent to Muhamed Abu.

Addressing the camera, he said ‘What, are you talking to me?… Boom!’, in reference to the Robert De Niro line from the film Taxi Driver.

He boasted the balaclava would ‘do the job’ and said he was ‘just waiting on the body armour… the body armour stop a bullet’.

In another disturbing rap, he described London Mayor Sadiq Khan as a ‘sell-out’ and talked about murdered fusilier Lee Rigby.

He said: ‘I’m trying to see many Lee Rigby’s heads rolling on the ground, man I shoot up a crowd cos I’m a night stalker, got my shank got my guns straight Isis supporter, reject democracy…

‘Got my suicide vest, one click, boom and I’ll see you later.’

He also posted extremist comments online and came to the attention of undercover officer Rachid via an exclusive IS supporters’ encrypted chat group on Telegram.

The pair met up twice, and during their conversation used code words ‘silah’ and ‘duty free’ for firearms, which Rachid claimed he could import.

Sahayb said the time was coming to be an ‘action man rather than a chatty man’ and commented ‘we need a 9/11 2.0’, in reference to the World Trade Centre attacks in New York.

By then, police took the decision to arrest the brothers on July 9 last year.

In a search of their father’s flat where Sahayb Abu had been living, a black IS flag was discovered.

In his defence, Sahayb Abu denied buying the sword and combat gear for a terror attack.

CCTV issued by the Metropolitan Police of Abu and his brother Muhamed in a fast food restaurant, which was shown during the trial at the Old Bailey

CCTV issued by the Metropolitan Police of Abu and his brother Muhamed in a fast food restaurant, which was shown during the trial at the Old Bailey

CCTV issued by the Metropolitan Police of Abu and his brother Muhamed in a fast food restaurant, which was shown during the trial at the Old Bailey

A photograph of an unknown police officer was sent on a chat group. The image was shown at the Old Bailey, London, during the trial of the brothers

A photograph of an unknown police officer was sent on a chat group. The image was shown at the Old Bailey, London, during the trial of the brothers

A photograph of an unknown police officer was sent on a chat group. The image was shown at the Old Bailey, London, during the trial of the brothers

He dismissed extremist posts as ‘trolling’ and claimed he joined the IS Telegram group to attract women with his ‘bravado’.

Sahayb Abu wanted to become famous like Stormzy, who wore a stab vest when he performed at Glastonbury, jurors were told

He claimed to hate IS, saying his interest in the terror group was for news of his lost half-brothers Wail and Suleyman Aweys.

Sahayb Abu also said the undercover police officer, dubbed the Man with the Golden Gun after the James Bond film, had ‘tricked’ him.

His lawyer Michael Ivers QC said the personas – ‘merciless troll’, ‘Jihadi fan boy’, and ‘wannabe drill rapper’ – all betrayed a desperate desire to be accepted.

Mr Ivers said: ‘If there was no lockdown there would be no trial, as simple as that.’

Autistic Muhamed Abu, of Norwood, south London, declined to give evidence, but in an outburst in the dock denied he was ‘anti-British’.

It was claimed on his behalf that the trainee plumber was ‘very upset’ with his fantasist brother for landing him in the dock over his ‘bullshit’.

The defendants had no previous terror convictions but had been jailed for the same commercial burglary.

Sahayb Abu, of Dagenham, Essex, had also been caught drug dealing in France and having a knife.

His half-brother Ahmed Aweys, 35, was jailed for 25 months in 2019 for disseminating terrorist material.

His sister Asma Aweys was imprisoned for 19 months for collecting terrorist information, and her partner Abdulaziz Abu Munye received 15 months for dissemination.

Convicted burglar who plotted a terror attack was a ‘very dangerous individual’, says police officer

Sahayb Abu was no clownish buffoon but a ‘very dangerous individual’, according to a senior counter-terrorism police officer.

Commander Richard Smith rejected Sahayb’s wannabe rapper persona, as he was found guilty of preparing a terror act.

During the trial, the convicted burglar described his rap alter ego, the Masked Menace, and his dreams to make a fortune selling healthy drinks and set up an African charity.

In reality, he spent virtually all his £400 monthly benefits on a large sword, camouflage kit and bulletproof vest as he spread his pro-Islamic State views, the Old Bailey heard.

Commander Richard Smith rejected Sahayb Abu's wannabe rapper persona, as he was found guilty of preparing a terror act

Commander Richard Smith rejected Sahayb Abu's wannabe rapper persona, as he was found guilty of preparing a terror act

Sahayb (pictured), who called himself the Masked Menace, bought an 18inch gladiator-style sword as he prepared his attack

Sahayb (pictured), who called himself the Masked Menace, bought an 18inch gladiator-style sword as he prepared his attack

Commander Richard Smith rejected Sahayb Abu’s wannabe rapper persona, as he was found guilty of preparing a terror act

Mr Smith said: ‘I have no doubt whatsoever that Sahayb had absolutely committed murderous intent in his preparations to carry out a terrorist act.’

Mr Smith, who is head of the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command, said there are currently 800 live investigations with no let-up despite Covid-19.

‘What this case illustrates is the fact that, despite the pandemic and lockdown, the threat from terrorism has not gone away.

‘We still face a substantial threat in this country which means an attack is likely.

‘In the same way, the pandemic has not stopped people planning and preparing attacks like this, neither has it stopped our capability of detecting them and prosecuting, and we and our partners at MI5 will do all we can to keep people in this country safe from terrorism.’

Mr Smith described Somalia-born Sahayb Abu as a ‘very dangerous individual’.

‘During the course of the investigation we saw him seeking to acquire a sword, getting hold of a knife, camouflage clothing and a ballistic vest, all with the intent of carrying out a terrorist attack in this country.

‘There is no doubt in my mind that Sahayb had murderous intent – some of that was evidenced from the kind the things that he was posting online.’

Jurors heard some extended family members had been linked to extremism, including two half-brothers who are believed to have been killed in Syria.

Sahayb Abu also mingled with convicted terrorists while in jail and went on to join an Islamic State supporters’ chat group on Telegram.

On how he was radicalised, Mr Smith said: ‘I will not comment on the cause but I will say that nobody is born with hatred and intolerance within them.

‘There needs to be some malign influence to spark that, and, once that’s happened, being surrounded by others with extremist views, whether that’s online or face to face, would certainly act to reinforce some of those hate-filled and abhorrent mindsets.’

Sahayb Abu had searched for various London embassies online and singled out a prominent Shia Muslim cleric, yet neither the police nor prosecution identified a specific target for the attack.

Mr Smith praised the courage of the undercover police officer, known as Rachid, who engaged with Sahayb Abu in encrypted chat and then met him twice.

The case underlined the ‘huge value’ of covert officers as they came up against some ‘very dangerous, very volatile individuals’.

Mr Smith added: ‘It demands huge courage and incredible technical and professional skill from those officers and I absolutely applaud their bravery when they support this type of investigation.’

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