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‘Three Musketeers’ terror cell convicted of Lee Rigby-style terror plot

Tahir Aziz, Naweed Ali, Mohibur Rahman and Khobaib Hussain have been found guilty of planning to strike police and military targets.

Members of a terrorist cell who dubbed themselves the “Three Musketeers” are facing years behind bars for plotting a Lee Rigby-style attack after a partly secret trial plagued by accusations of police corruption.

Two members of the gang, from the West Midlands, sought out infamous Islamic State supporter Anjem Choudary before they prepared to strike police and military targets on British soil, it can now be reported.

They were arrested in August last year after MI5 went to bug the car of Naweed Ali, only to uncover a pipe bomb and meat cleaver hidden in a JD Sports bag.

Convicted terrorists Ali, 29, Khobaib Hussain, 25, and Mohibur Rahman, 33, who served time together behind bars, denied preparing an attack.

They claimed the incriminating evidence was planted by undercover police officer Vincent, the boss of a fake firm called Hero Couriers.

Vincent was cross-examined over 12 days and repeatedly rejected the allegations against him. He also described them in a private message as “the usual bollox”.

Jurors agreed with him and, after deliberating for more than 22 hours, unanimously convicted the men of preparing terrorist acts, along with fourth defendant Tahir Aziz, 38.

As they were led from the dock, Rahman shouted out: “I hope you’re happy with your lies. Lying scumbags.”

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West Midlands Police recovered a long sword from the driver's foot well of Tahir Aziz's Ford Fiesta on the day of his arrest (West Midlands Police/PA)

Mr Justice Globe remanded them in custody until sentencing on Thursday morning.

Following the guilty verdicts, Detective Chief Superintendent Matt Ward, head of West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit, said: “Today’s case was about four very dangerous extremists who were plotting to carry out a terror attack in the UK.

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Police also found an imitation handgun with an empty magazine strapped to it stashed in Naweed Ali's Seat Leon car (West Midlands Police/PA)

“Today the communities of the Midlands, Stoke-on-Trent and Birmingham should feel relieved that they are much safer with these four dangerous individuals now going to spend a long time behind bars.”

He described the accusations against his team as “groundless”, saying: “They went against the integrity of the undercover operatives, they went against the integrity of the wider investigation.

“I’m really proud of our officers; I’m particularly proud of our undercover operatives who were in an incredibly dangerous situation.”

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The Hero Couriers depot in central Birmingham where an undercover officer posed as a manager to have contact with Khobaib Hussain and Naweed Ali (West Midlands/PA) NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

The Old Bailey trial had heard that Ali, Hussain and Rahman called themselves the Three Musketeers in an encrypted chat on the Telegram messaging app.

The gang was led by former law degree student turned trainee gas fitter Hussain, from Birmingham, and included his friend and next-door neighbour Ali and committed jihadist Rahman, who they met behind bars.

Ali and Hussain were jailed for joining a terrorist training camp in Pakistan while Rahman was in prison for possessing an al Qaida propaganda magazine which contained bomb-making instructions.

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Mohibur Rahman (left) and Khobaib Hussain in Coventry Road in Small Heath (West Midlands Police/PA)

Rahman, of High Lane, Stoke, had connections with other extremists, including Choudary, who he is believed to have visited with Aziz last May while the radical preacher was on bail awaiting trial for supporting IS.

Primark salesman Aziz was keen not to be “left behind” but was only brought into the Three Musketeers plot days before the arrests, the prosecution alleged.

The gang had tried to evade secret services and police and even attempted to double-deal with an MI5 contact of Rahman’s to extract information.

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This hatchet was also found in Naweed Ali's car with the word kafir (Arabic for non-believer or infidel) scratched on the blade (West Midlands/PA)

But the authorities were one step ahead of them with an elaborate undercover operation at Hero Couriers, where Hussain and Ali were offered driving shifts.

The defendants were also covertly photographed meeting on a boating lake and in a park days before their arrests, the court heard.

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