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The ‘Jihad at Home’ Case: New UK Terror Trial

“Almost nightly he was using the laptop,” police officer Paul Brereton told the court, “and described how on a standard night she would be massaging oil into his feet while he would look at this [extremist] material.”

The trial of Shasta Khan, which opened in Manchester, England, last week, relates to an alleged plot to carry out a bombing campaign against the city’s Jewish community. Her husband, Mohammed Sajid Khan, 33, has already pleaded guilty. The prosecution alleges that couple began “to make preparations to carry out a terrorist attack on British soil, with the most likely target being an Orthodox Jewish area in Prestwich. Between them they made preparations, and acquired substances bought in supermarkets and information to help them in making explosives, and began the process of assembling an improvised explosive device.”

Four Lions was an excellent British comedy about a hapless bunch of would-be jihadis from the north of England. And something of the same ridiculous hangs about the Khan affair: a small terraced house that also served as a hair dressing salon and, allegedly, a bomb factory; CDs of radical speeches found in Shasta Khan’s blue Peugeot car; pictures of Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders on the computer, right there next to the family snaps. And then there are the bomb instructions, titled “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom.” No wonder the prosecution is calling it the ‘Jihad at home’ case.

Even the collapse of the plot was ridiculous. According to the Jewish Chronicle trial reporter, the jury was told that when Mr. Khan assaulted his father-in-law, “Shasta Khan and her family took the opportunity to ‘spill the beans,’ telling police Mohammed was a ‘home-grown terrorist.’”

And yet, the line between the ridiculous and the deadly is thin.  We are also hearing about a plastic bag filled with adapted Christmas tree lights to make a detonator and items to extract the explosive potassium chlorate from household chemicals. And about the 71 execution videos police found downloaded to the defendant’s laptop. Chillingly, the prosecutor told the court that “Mrs. Khan told police that she had driven her husband to a Prestwich synagogue, and twice they had sat in its car park watching Jewish people enter, while her husband said a Koranic-inspired verse calling Jews ‘dirty’ and said ‘we must kill them all.’”

The trial continues, and I will blog here again about what this case tells us about radicalization and anti-Semitism in the UK today. We might yet discover much of great value to the work of counter-radicalization.

 

Photo Credit: Peter Gagilas

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