Watford Man Admits Terror Offences

21 January 2015, 07:39

A man from Watford has admitted a terrorism offence after helping his cousin who'd been at a terrorist training camp in Syria.

45 year old Tahir Bhatti who is from Clarke Way and owns a taxi business admitted a charge of assisting to commit terrorist acts.

He was helping his cousin Imran Khawaja who had received training in Syria back into the UK at the port of Dover

Khawaja, 27 of Foxglove Close, Southall, Middlesex pleaded guilty to preparing acts of terrorism, attending a terrorist training camp, weapons training and possession of an article for terrorist purposes.

On 26 January 2014, Imran Khawaja left from Heathrow Airport and travelled to a training camp in Syria. It was here that he joined 'Rayat al Tawheed' - a group which became aligned with Islamic State.

The group began posting violent propaganda online in an attempt to persuade others to come out and join them. In response, the Metropolitan Police SO15 Counter Terrorism Command began an investigation into Rayat al Tawheed and its UK-based support network.

Khawaja features in one of the group's promotional videos, 'Five Star Jihad', where he is introduced as 'Abu Daigham'. The video presents a vision of daily life at the Rayat al Tawheed training camp, encouraging others to join them.

In May 2014, the group put out a message on social media, designed to deliberately mislead authorities, claiming that Abu Daigham al-Britani had been killed alongside an image of two masked men holding a flag associated with Islamic State. This news of his death was picked up and reported by the British media.

However, Khawaja was not dead. He was in fact making his way back to the UK. On 3 June 2014, Khawaja and his cousin Tahir Bhatti were arrested by SO15 officers as they entered the UK at Dover port in a hire car.

A number of addresses linked to Khawaja and Bhatti were searched as part of the investigation. Messages and photographs were recovered which proved Khawaja had engaged in terrorist training whilst in Syria, which involved learning how to handle military weapons.

A second man was also identified by officers involved in Khawaja's support network in the UK. Asim Ali, 33, of Spikes Bridge Road, Ealing was arrested on 14 August 2014 at his home on suspicion of assisting committing acts of terrorism and suspicion of terrorist funding.

Officers believe Ali played a pivotal role providing support and assistance to Khawaja. He set up messaging services and provided him with £300 from his bank account before he left the UK.

Ali was charged on 15 August 2014 with the intention of assisting Imran Khawaja and others to commit acts of terrorism.

On 12 December 2014, Khawaja pleaded guilty to:

= Preparation of Acts of Terrorism contrary to section 5 Terrorism Act 2006

= Attending a Terrorist Training Camp contrary to section 8 Terrorism Act 2006

= Weapons Training contrary to section 54 Terrorism Act 2000

= Possession of an Article for Terrorist Purposes contrary to section 57 (1) Terrorism Act 2000

On Tuesday, 23 December 2014, Ali pleaded guilty to entering into a funding arrangement for the purposes of terrorism, contrary to Section 17 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

At the Old Bailey yesterday (20 January) Bhatti pleaded guilty to assisting an offender. Section 4(1) of the Criminal Law Act 1967.

Commander Richard Walton, Head of the SO15 Counter Terrorism Command, said: "The images and video of Khawaja in Syria are horrific and deeply disturbing. He was a senior figure in Rayat Al Taweed, a group aligned to Islamic State that celebrated its terrorist acts through social media back to the UK.

"Khawaja chose to become a terrorist, engaged in weapons training in a terrorist training camp and faked his own death in order to conceal his entry back into the UK.

"He posed a serious threat to this country and the country is safer as a result of this prosecution."

The men will be sentenced at the Old Bailey on Thursday, 5 and Friday, 6 February.