A Muslim husband and wife were convicted on Thursday of plotting a terror attack, aimed at Jews in Manchester, northern England.
Shasta Khan, a 38-year-old hairdresser, was found guilty of preparing for acts of terrorism and two counts of possessing information likely to be useful in an act of terrorism. She denied involvement in the plot.
Her husband, Mohammed Sajid Khan, 33, an unemployed car valet, pleaded guilty in an earlier hearing.
They will be sentenced on Friday afternoon.
“This trial has shown the reality of anti-Jewish terrorism in Britain today. It explains why Jewish communities take security and antisemitism seriously,” said Mark Gardner, spokesperson for the Community Security Trust, an organization which provides security advice, infrastructure and manpower to British Jews.
During the trial at Manchester Crown Court, which lasted nearly a month, the jury heard that the couple began preparing an attack almost as soon as they married in July 2010.
They downloaded a manual called “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of your Mom” from the Internet and, following its instructions, began gathering material for a homemade bomb. Material found in their home in Oldham, greater Manchester, included Christmas tree lights adapted to make a detonator, electrical wires, safety goggles, a funnel, needles, syringes and chemicals such as bleach, acetone and peroxide liquid which Mrs. Khan used in her work as a hairdresser.
The prosecutors said that these could be combined within days into a bomb that could kill at least 10 people, and given more time, could be used to kill dozens.
The couple had regularly scouted out Jewish targets in Manchester, which is home to Britain’s second-largest Jewish population, with around 30,000 Jews. These included synagogues in two strictly Orthodox neighbourhoods and the Jewish Agency’s building, which was saved as a favorite destination in their Satellite Navigation System. Its website was bookmarked on their computer, as was the website of the United Jewish Israel Appeal (UJIA).
Material on their computers included searches for “shotgun cartridges” on eBay and 71 videos of executions.
The couple, who met on an Islamic dating site and married just six weeks later, had apparently been radicalized by material they read online, including an English-language magazine, Inspire, posted on the Internet by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), an al-Qaeda affiliate.
Their activities were discovered by accident in July 2011, when the police were called to their house following a domestic dispute. Mrs. Khan’s brother told them that his brother-in-law was “a home-grown terrorist” and Mrs. Khan proceeded to provide details. The prosecution alleged that in her “emotional state” she gave no thought to the consequences for herself and thought that the police would believe she was not involved.
The jury cleared her of a third count of possessing information useful for committing or preparing for an act of terrorism.
This is the third terrorist plot against British Jews to be uncovered recently. In February, nine British men were convicted of plotting to send letter bombs to various targets, including two synagogues.
Earlier this month, The Toronto Star revealed that last summer, al-Qaeda also had plans to target two of London’s best-known Jewish neighbourhoods, Stamford Hill and Golders Green. A document discussing the pros and cons of various planned attacks stated that “our objectives are to strike London with low-cost operations that would cause a heavy blow amongst the hierarchy and Jewish communities.” The Jewish areas are populated by “tens of thousands of Jews crammed in a small area.”
The intelligence was found on the body of Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, the senior Al Qaeda leader in Africa who was shot dead by Somali forces in June 2011.
“We urge the Jewish community to live its life to the full, and ask that it keeps supporting communal security efforts,” said Gardner.