19 Feb 2015

London teenager Ziamani guilty of plot to behead soldier

Senior Home Affairs Correspondent

A radicalised teenage son of Jehovah Witnesses is found guilty of planning to behead a young British soldier.

Brusthom Ziamani, 19, was arrested in east London last August carrying a knife, hammer and Islamic state flag inside his rucksack.

An Old Bailey jury was told how he had proclaimed online support for the killers of Fusilier Lee Rigby and told his former girlfriend he wanted to die a martyr.

‘Holy warrior’

It took just three months for Ziamani to adopt the jihadist views of Islamist extremism and become, in the words of the prosecution, “swiftly radicalised”.

Ziamani was said to have become a loyal follower of the radical protagonist Anjem Choudray and his group, who gave him money and a place to stay. He began attending various meetings and demonstrations.

The court heard they helped him chose a Muslim name ‘Mujahid’, meaning holy warrior, the same adopted name as Michael Adebolajo who killed Lee Rigby.

You want war, you got it. British soldiers heads will be removed and burned. Extract of letter by Brustholm Ziamani

The court was told “his hatred of non-believers and interest in violent jihad began to crystallise into a plan to attack a member of the British military forces”.

Evidence emerged of his online research for south London locations of army cadet bases, including the London Irish Rifles Association, the Lewisham Army Cadets and the Army Cadet Force in Blackheath.

In a letter to his parents, he wrote: “You want war, you got it. British soldiers heads will be removed and burned.”

When arrested for the first time, he told police he wanted to die a martyr and planned to join the Islamic State group.

After being released on bail he had three meetings with officers working on the Prevent programme, which aims to stop people being drawn into terrorism, but each time rejected offers of help.

Religious extremes

Ziamani had gone from one religious extremism to another. He had been brought up as a strict Jehovah Witness and would go on evangelising missions with his Congolese parents “every single weekend from early hours of the morning till evening”, knocking on doors and inviting people to join the faith.

He was barred from mixing with anyone outside his own faith, never celebrated Christmas or birthdays, was not allowed to listen to music or talk to women outside the family.

He described in court how he abandoned his faith after being expelled by the church for having sex with a girl. He then drifted into a gang which mugged people for their phones.

He converted to Islam in February last year and was then thrown out of the family home and slept on the streets.