Internet dating couple jailed for plotting an IS attack in Britain
Munir Mohammed was impressed by Rowaida El-Hassan’s pharmacy skills while she was looking to ‘vibe with him on a spiritual and intellectual level’.
A lonely hearts couple have been jailed for plotting an Islamic State-inspired bomb or ricin attack over the Christmas holidays.
Sudanese asylum seeker Munir Mohammed volunteered for a UK “lone wolf” mission in Facebook chat with an IS commander.
He enlisted “strong-willed” pharmacist Rowaida El-Hassan to advise on chemicals for a bomb after they met on dating website SingleMuslim.com.
On arrest in December 2016, Mohammed had two of the three components for TATP explosives as well as manuals on how to make bombs and ricin poison.
But the bungling terrorist failed to get the final ingredient, buying acetone-free nail varnish in Asda by mistake days before his arrest.
Mohammed, 36, of Leopold Street, Derby, and mother-of-two El-Hassan, 33, of Willesden Lane, north-west London, were found guilty of preparing terrorist acts between November 2015 and December 2016.
Sentencing at the Old Bailey, Judge Michael Topolski QC jailed Mohammed for life with a minimum of 14 years.
El-Hassan, his “willing” and “enthusiastic” partner, was jailed for 12 years plus five years on extended licence.
The judge highlighted Mohammed’s “vast store” of IS propaganda depicting the “abhorrent” acts of murder, including nearly 26,000 images on his phone.
El-Hassan never objected to being sent the videos as her two children slept in her bedroom, and even asked for more, the judge said.
While Mohammed introduced extremism in their relationship, El-Hassan “embraced it and became more and more absorbed by it to the point she became an enthusiastic and encouraging partner”, the judge said.
Judge Topolski told Mohammed: “You decided that yours would be a lone wolf attack. You decided the means of your attack would involve you making an IED.
“You had not decided whether that would be made with an ordinary bomb or whether you could do more damage and instil more terror by exploding a device containing ricin.”
He “carefully and deliberately” drew El-Hassan in to the point where her commitment was “consistent and sustained”, the judge said.
The court heard that Mohammed arrived in Britain in the back of a lorry and claimed asylum in February 2014.
He became “frustrated” at being kept in limbo for three years and appealed to Labour MP Margaret Beckett for help with his immigration problems.
Using false identity documents, he worked at Kerry Foods in Derby, making sauces for supermarket ready meals, and wooing a potential British bride he met online.
He was drawn to University College London graduate El-Hassan’s skills as a pharmacist.
In turn, she was looked for a simple man to “vibe with on a spiritual and intellectual level”, according to her dating profile.
By the spring of 2016 the pair were in regular contact on WhatsApp and had met three times in a London park near El-Hassan’s home.
In August 2016, Mohammed offered to do “a new job in the UK”, while chatting with an IS commander online.
He went on to complain at the lack of instructions, asking in coded language how to make “dough” (explosives) for “Syrian bread” (a bomb) and “other types of food”.
When police raided his home on December 12 2016, they found hydrogen peroxide in a wardrobe and hydrochloric acid in the freezer.
In mitigation, Charles Bott QC said “Mr Mohammed did not come to this country to attack it. He worked hard and he studied diligently.
“Whatever other agenda he had, he was becoming increasingly frustrated at more than three years it took to adjudicate on his application.”
The court heard that since her conviction, El-Hassan’s two children had been taken to live in Sudan.
Referring to a letter from her mother, Judge Topolski said he would need a “heart made of heavy stone” not to be moved by the plight of innocent children.