Student, 19, jailed for bid to join IS in Syria
A teenager who attempted to travel to Syria to fight for Islamic State has been jailed for four years.
Ednane Mahmood, 19, from Blackburn, Lancashire, was convicted last month by a jury of preparing terrorism acts.
The trial at Manchester Crown Court heard that university student Mahmood had downloaded videos showing British aid worker David Haines being beheaded, before fleeing from his home during the early hours to travel to Syria on September 18 last year.
He boarded a flight from Manchester Airport to Bulgaria with little money and few possessions and left a letter for his family which stated he had "gone to fight in the cause of Allah".
But the court was to hear that he never got to Syria, and on September 20, from an Internet cafe, he was in Twitter communication with his brother who persuaded him to come back to the UK.
The court was told the teenager's interest in Syria, Jihad and Isis developed over time from 2012 and in the month before his departure his internet searches became "increasingly acute".
The court heard his family had been unaware of his intentions and on the day that he fled had reported him missing to police.
Mahmood, who had been studying Arabic, told officers that he had been upset by the conflict and news coverage and had wanted to help.
He had claimed he became "stranded" on the Turkey side of the border, alone, upset and running out of money. Although there was evidence he had contact numbers for people smugglers.
Sentencing him, Judge Michael Henshell said the defendant's online research into Islamic State developed into a "dangerous obsession" and ultimately he was radicalised.
Mahmood had bought a nine-day return flight ticket from Sofia to Manchester but the judge said that was only to give the impression he was a normal traveller.
He said the defendant had concealed the real reason why he went and to some extent he believed he was still concealing that.
He told Mahmood: "You are still a young man. My assessment of you is you were and, to some extent, are a naive, unsophisticated individual who has so far lived a fairly sheltered life."
Ian McMeekin, defending, said that following his conviction his client had now disavowed the ideals of Isis and had accepted he had been "brainwashed" by its propaganda.
He said: "He had real promise academically and in terms of the community. He was well intentioned in the beginning but became distracted and this led to a distorted view of things."
Judge Henshell said it was "a great shame" that his rejection of Islamic State had not come earlier.
Praising his family, the judge told Mahmood: "By their actions they prevented you from taking an irrevocable step which would have resulted in a victory for the barbaric forces that, as you say, had brainwashed you."
Mahmood was also convicted of two counts of disseminating terrorist publications by sending two internet links of material to another individual.
He was sentenced to six months each in prison, to run concurrently.
Mahmood will only be released halfway through his sentence if the Parole Board is satisfied he no longer poses a risk to the public.
He will remain on licence for a year following his release.
Following sentencing, Detective Chief Superintendent Tony Mole, head of the North West Counter Terrorism Unit, said: "Prior to leaving the UK to try and gain entry to Syria, it was clear from Mahmood's actions that he was a strong supporter of the Isis cause and was intent on joining this terrorist group in Syria.
"He did not tell his family anything about his plans and once they learned of his whereabouts, they did everything they could to persuade him to come home.
"Thankfully within this three day period, Mahmood had not been successful in his efforts to cross the border to Syria. Clearly, anyone intending to travel to Syria or Iraq to fight should be in no doubt that the police will take the strongest possible action against them.
"However, in an ideal world, we would like to stop people well before they get to this stage and the earlier we can be told about someone's intentions to join a group like this, the better.
"Anyone that is concerned about someone travelling to, or returning from Syria or another conflict zone, or is worried about someone showing signs of being radicalised, should contact their local police on 101 or visit preventtragedies.co.uk to access relevant support and advice."