A bricklayer has been convicted of trying to join ISIS after ‘training’ for battle at a British paintballing centre with three other men linked to the terror group.
Humza Ali, 20, posed for ‘promotional’ photos alongside Mohammed Ali Ahmed, Gabriel Rasmus and Abdelatif Gaini at a paintballing centre in Solihull months before border staff in Turkey sent him back to Britain.
The pictures – released by police after reporting restrictions were lifted – show three of the four Birmingham men making the single-fingered salute of the so-called Islamic State as other paintballers walk and sit nearby.
A three-week trial at Birmingham Crown Court heard that Ali wanted to ‘fight until I die’ in Syria and was covertly recorded telling a fifth ISIS sympathiser that his mother had confiscated his passport.
Ahmed, who is seen smiling on the ‘bonding’ session pictures, was jailed earlier this week for his part in handing £3,000 to Brussels ‘man in the hat’ bombing suspect Mohamed Abrini.
The trial also heard that pictures recovered from Ali’s phone showed him with would-be jihadist Rasmus, posing beside a tank at Delta Force paintballing in Cut Throat Lane, Hockley Heath, in June 2014.
Gaini, who is thought to be in Syria, is seen crouching near a military vehicle in one of the pictures.
Ali – a student at Birmingham’s South and City College who lived with his parents – told his trial he had no intention of travelling to Syria when he made his way by sea and air routes to Istanbul via Ireland in January 2015.
But jurors convicted Ali, who will be sentenced in January, of attempting to travel for terrorist purposes and disseminating numerous video messages to other men showing beheadings and atrocities carried out by ISIS.
Ali, of Birmingham, was also found guilty of sending malicious communications after directing ‘abusive’ anti-democracy messages at a local councillor.
During Ali’s trial, prosecutor Anne Whyte QC said the paintballing photos were proof that Ali was preparing for terrorist acts.
She told jurors: ‘If you step back you will understand that for an inexperienced but committed young man like Humza Ali, who intends to leave his Western urban life for war in the Middle East, the opportunities for handling anything remotely resembling a type of firearm are extremely limited.
‘Membership, for example, of a gun club might draw unwanted attention, but the occasional paintballing session with friends is ideal, however bizarre that may seem, and at least enables the participant to handle a type of weapon and to take broad aim.
‘Should you be in any doubt about the serious intent behind this activity in June 2014, you will be able to consider evidence which we say demonstrates that this was in fact a sort of training exercise, and of itself an act of preparation.’
The prosecutor said: ‘During it, the participants posed for photographs in quasi-combat gear, holding their paint-filled weapons, including Ali.
‘They were able to use the occasion to take a sort of promotional photo sealing their common sense of identity.
‘It was a bonding act of preparation between men of like mind and like intent. They were doing what passed, in their limited circumstances, for training. Three including Ali have been thwarted in their plans to get to Syria.’
Ahmed paid for the paintballing exercise, added Ms Whyte, who told jurors that he had already pleaded guilty to an offence under the Terrorism Act.
Ahmed, 27, of Small Heath, Birmingham, was jailed for eight years on Monday at London’s Kingston Crown Court.
Restrictions in the case of Ahmed had prevented reporting of his presence at the paintballing centre and references to the fact that 41-year-old Gaini travelled to Syria.
Rasmus, 29, of Birmingham, was jailed for four years at the Old Bailey last month after being arrested in April last year at Dover while en route to Syria to engage in terrorism.
Source: /Daily Mail