Student with learning difficulties found guilty of plotting terror attack

Left to right: Aqib Imran with Naa'imur Rahman who was previously convicted. [Photo: Metropolitan Police]

A student with learning difficulties who told an undercover MI5 agent that he wanted to travel to Libya to fight has been found guilty of preparing an act of terrorism.

Aqib Imran from Birmingham, was convicted after an Old Bailey retrial on Thursday 27 December.

During the trial, Imran denied having intentions to carry out terrorism, stating that he had been lured into a fantasy that started when he was attracted to a girl he met online.

The jury heard that the 22-year-old had learning difficulties and had left school with no GCSEs.

His college supported him with a dedicated teaching assistant to help him complete a course which would facilitate employment opportunities in social care.

By September 2017, Imran had met another man, Naa’imur Rahman, online.

Rahman, 21, who is originally from Walsall, had been influenced by his uncle who was at the time fighting with the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) group in Syria.

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Prosecutors told the Old Bailey that Imran and Rahman began chatting online to people whom they both thought were “commanders” for ISIS.

But the shadowy profiles were in fact a series of undercover agents from the FBI and later the MI5.

Both secret services have been increasingly utilising online “profiles” to identify potentially violent suspects who are seeking to commit domestic attacks or fight abroad.

Rahman told the agents that he wanted to kill Prime Minister Theresa May, and that he was convicted of that plot last August after an undercover operation involving a fake bomb-maker.

Imran was not part of Rahman’s attack plan, but prosecutors argued that he wanted to travel to Libya to fight, or possibly travel to Syria via Jordan.

They claimed that he gathered cash to travel and discussed with one of the undercover agents how he would obtain a fake passport.

He also downloaded a prohibited “terrorist guidebook” which advises prospective fighters and travellers, as well as sending an ISIS propaganda video to his friend before his arrest.

However, Imran’s defence team told the Old Bailey that the student did nothing to actualise what in reality was a mere “fantasy” of a young man with learning difficulties.

The jury heard Imran’s interest in travelling was initiated by an “online crush” on someone he only knew as “Aisha”.

This alleged woman – whom he never met – was supposedly in Denmark and they discussed travelling together to the Libya or Syria via Jordan.

The trial heard no evidence about the real identity of Aisha, but she initially provided Imran with the contact who ended up being an undercover MI5 agent offering help to get Imran a fake passport.

While he shared a picture of his original passport with the undercover agent, Imran said during the trial that he never handed over any money for a fraudulent document, despite having the financial means to do so, or sent pictures of himself required for a fake passport.

The jury heard that Imran then stopped communicating with the MI5 agent – while his friend Rahman separately continued his own contact with the investigator.

Following Imran’s first trial, a jury convicted him of possessing the terrorist manual, but were split on the more serious charge of preparing an act of terrorism by intending to travel to overseas.

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