Mother of six jailed for posting Facebook messages promoting Syria jihad

Runa Khan outside court

A Muslim mother-of-six who posted pictures of her young children posing as jihadists on Facebook and advised an undercover policeman how to travel to Syria has been jailed for five years and three months.

Runa Khan, 35, from Luton, took pictures of her young son wearing a turban and holding a toy assault rifle and took another picture of him with a copy of a book by Abdullah Azzam, Osama bin Laden’s mentor.

She also had photographs of her older, nine-year-old son and her teenage son holding a sword and posed with the same weapons herself.

Khan appeared for sentencing today at Kingston Crown Court, south west London, after she admitted four counts of distributing terrorist material.

Judge Peter Birts told her today: ‘You appear to have no interest in the effect of radicalisation on your children having selfishly placed your own ideology and beliefs above their welfare in your priorities.

Hundreds of British Muslims are thought to have travelled to Syria for "jihad"
Hundreds of British Muslims are thought to have travelled to Syria for “jihad”

‘You have shown no remorse for your actions and you are determined to follow your ideology whatever the cost to your liberty, and your family, including your children.”

Judge Birts said Khan was not only deeply radical herself, but a “major radicaliser of others on Facebook, Whatsapp and other social media” and that the “promotion of terrorism through the internet is a major potential concern.”

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“Your purpose was to promote your own personal brand of violent Islam on the internet and to radicalise others, including very young children,” he added.

The judge told Khan she was an “avowed fundamental Islamist, holding radical and extreme beliefs” and that she had a “violent ideology that espoused jihad as an essential part of the Islamist obligations.”

He said that her postings were designed to “further your own deeply entrenched violent ideology and persuade others to violent action, including suicide, martyrdom and other violence.”

The instructions to mothers, accompanied by a picture of her youngest son, the judge said, was a “highly detailed educational programme on how a mother could raise a child mentally and emotionally dedicated to armed jihad, raise mujahid children and encourage loved ones to participate in jihad.”

Nahin Ahmed

The court heard Khan had pledged to join another fighter called Nahin Ahmed, 22, in Syria as soon as she paid off her debts and he promised to find her a “real man” in Syria.

An undercover police officer using the name “Abdur Rahman” began communicating with her over Facebook and when he told her he wanted to go to Syria, Khan replied: “When you are ready to go, let me know, I have the route,” which she then sent him.

The officer said his father would not let him go, but she told him: “We don’t need our parents’ permission brother,” later adding he would need £2000 and saying: “Just go.”

Nahin Ahmed
Nahin Ahmed

She told him she was £10,000 in debt and added: “Well I’m gonna clear my debts and do one from here.”

Using the name “Khawla Khattab” she had posted a picture of a suicide vest emblazoned with the words: “Ishtishadee: sacrificing your life to benefit Islam.”

When she discovered that Abdur Rahman was an undercover officer, Khan told interviewing officers he was a ‘two faced p****’ and that she thought he held the same views as her, which she described as “Going to Syria, helping the Syrian people fighting for Islam.”

She also posted a Youtube link to a BBC documentary called: “Suicide Bomber is a Childhood Dream” and when a user from London called “Joseph” queried the permissibility of suicide bombing, she wrote: “But it’s the most feared war tactic and most groups do it.”

On September 24 last year, Khan posted a picture of her son captioned: “Zipping up my eight-year-old boy’s jacket as he wants to play outside of a bit. I pictured the future while I was zipping up his jacket. Inshallah I’ll be tying the shahada bandana round his forehead and hand him his rifle and send him out to play the big boys game. AllahuAkbar.”

She had posted an article on Facebook called “Raising Mujahid Children” which said mothers should show their children military books, CDs and videos to children “as young as a couple of years or even younger.”


Jo Sidhu QC, defending, said the mother-of-six was “unrepentant” and had a “deep, strong, unwavering and inflexible” way of thinking, but her crime was “extremely unsophisticated.”

Khan’s second marriage had fallen apart and her five older children were living with her mother, the court heard. She was said to have had a “chaotic personal life” and to have had two “deeply unhappy” relationships, the second of which involved domestic violence.A defence psychologist said the children face “major difficulties in the future whether or not their mother is jailed.”

Social media has been used by the British security services to entrap Muslims
Social media has been used by the British security services to entrap Muslims

On May 23 last year, the day after the killing of Fusilier Lee Rigby, she changed her profile to a picture of a soldier carrying an injured comrade, labelling it: “Hell for Heroes,” and posted a link to footage of the attack.

Police, who had become aware of Khan’s online activities, searched her home in October 2013, seizing her iPhone.

On it they discovered records of WhatsApp chats she had been having with Ahmed since April in which Ahmed, an unemployed postal worker from Handsworth, Birmingham, used three different numbers, the latest in Syria.

He had left the country in May with a former schoolfriend, Yusuf Sarwar, who left behind a note for his mother, who then alerted police.

The pair stayed in Syria for eight months fighting with a group linked to al-Qaeda before they were persuaded to return by their families. Last week they were jailed for 12 years and eight months each.

At various points in the conversations Khan expressed a wish to travel to Syria herself and Ahmed told her to fly to Istanbul, catch a coach to Hatay and then get a taxi to Reyhanli, close to the border, adding: “From der u gta stay low nd get ready to cross da borders. Allahu alam hw da situation will be.”

He advised her to join a group called Kateeb al-Muhajireen saying they were the “ideal group” because they had the “right aqeedah” and “also a lot speak English.”

The judge said he had jailed Khan for the maximum possible period under the Terrorism Act 2006. Normally seven years, it was discounted because of Khan’s guilty plea. 

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