22 May 2013

Woolwich attack: chilling echoes of a previous plot?

Home Affairs Correspondent

In 2007 anti-terror officers uncovered a plot in Birmingham to kidnap and behead a serving British, Muslim soldier. Darshna Soni, who covered the 2007 case, reports.

Parviz Khan

For six months, under the codename Operation Gamble, detectives had been investigating a group of men from Birmingham whom they suspected of a gruesome plot – to kidnap and behead a British soldier. The leader of the group was a 37 year old from Alum Rock named Parviz Khan (pictured).

The security services had placed a bug in his home, and this provided much of the evidence in the case. In court, a jury heard that Khan’s motive was to undermine the morale of the British Army and to inhibit the recruitment of Muslims.

In one of the recordings, Khan was heard outlining his plan to co-defendant Basiru Gassama: “We give the judgment… well then cut it (the head) off like you cut a pig, man.

What was interesting about the group of plotters was that they included Gassama, a Gambia-born Muslim, as well as Muslims of Pakistani origin. The others included an IT teacher, Zahoor Iqbal, and unemployed Mohammed Irfan.

Read more: Woolwich knife attack - serving soldier dead

Detectives had hoped to investigate for another two months before making arrests, but when one of the suspects purchased a video camera it was feared that this was done in preparation for the kidnapping, so the police brought forward their decision to make the arrests.

On 31 January 2007, just before 4:00 am, 100s of officers raided eight homes and four businesses, including a corner store, two Islamic bookstores and an internet cafe. In highly controversial circumstances, details of the raid were leaked to the media – a subsequent inquiry by the Met Police failed to uncover the source of the leaks.

Nine men were arrested, six were later charged. Parviz Khan went on to admit the plot and was sentenced to life imprisonment, with a minimum of 14 years. Gassama was found guilty of failing to report the plot, the others of supplying equipment to Pakistan-based militants.