LONDON – A Muslim couple inspired by al-Qaida propaganda on the Internet were in the early stages of plotting a terrorist attack on the Jewish community of Manchester, UK, a court heard on Wednesday.
Manchester Crown Court heard that Muhammad Sajid Khan, 33, and his wife, Shasta, 38, from Oldham in greater Manchester bought material from supermarkets to assemble homemade explosive devices.
They were planning to attack Jewish targets in Prestwich, an area with a large, mainly Orthodox, Jewish community. Manchester is home to the second-largest Jewish community outside London with a population of around 50,000.
Police only discovered the bomb-making materials after a domestic disputed alerted officers to their house in July 2011. Khan had attacked his wife’s father, and her family decided then to “spill the beans” telling police that he was a “home grown terrorist.”
The couple were arrested and indicted under the Terrorism Act 2000 on charges of planning and preparing a terror attack.
According to the prosecution, the couple had had become radicalized by material on the Internet, including al-Qaida’s online magazine, Inspire, where they also may have found details on how to build a bomb.
Khan has already pleaded guilty but his wife denies any involvement and has pleaded not guilty.
Shasta Khan is charged with engaging in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism and three counts of possessing a record of information likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing for an act of terrorism.
Behind their “apparent normality of daily life,” Kahn and his wife planned to carry out “jihad at home,” prosecutor Bobbie Cheema told the Manchester court.
“In 2010, after they were married, and in 2011, the two of them became radicalized by material found on the Internet, such as an al-Qaida magazine called Inspire, the aim of which is to encourage Muslims in the West to carry out violent holy war, or jihad, by mounting attacks in their own countries independent of any outside direction or association with any other person,” Cheema, a London-based attorney, said.
“In response the two began to make preparations to carry out a terrorist attack on British soil, with the most likely target being an Orthodox Jewish area of Prestwich in Greater Manchester,” she added.
While the targets are not yet known, it was alleged that the pair carried out “multiple reconnaissance trips” to the Jewish areas of North Manchester.
While a motive for the alleged attack has not yet been revealed, the prosecution said the couple “believed in and supported an extreme ideology of violent holy war” in which “Jews are seen as particular enemies for their presence in Palestine and support for their existence there and, in part, by the United States and Britain for Israel.”
The court heard Thursday that Police found a cache of terrorist material at the couple’s house.
Beheading videos, propaganda glorifying Osama bin Laden and bomb-making guides were seized along with the peroxide and bleach which together with electrical equipment - including electrical wires, Christmas tree lights, bulbs and a battery - were being readied to make an improvised explosive device, the jury was told.
Seemingly innocuous and innocent items had a more sinister purpose, it was suggested to the jury.
Ground-up fire lighters, safety goggles, a funnel, needles and syringes were also part of the items police found which could be used to make a home-made bomb, the court heard.
An article from the al-Qaida magazine found, entitled “Make a bomb in the kitchen of your Mom”, offered a step-by-step guide, from how to get ingredients without raising suspicion, to building a bomb using Christmas lights.
According to the article, in one or two days a bomb could be made to kill "at least 10 people" and with more time "tens of people."