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Terror couple jailed for life

Mohammed Rehman and  Sana Ahmed Khan
Mohammed Rehman and Sana Ahmed Khan

A couple who plotted a deadly terror attack on London to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the July 7 bombings have each been jailed for life.

Mohammed Rehman, 25, and his now ex-wife Sana Ahmed Khan, 24, were inspired by Islamic State and became radicalised after marrying in October 2013. They kept their marriage secret from friends and relatives and had not shown any strong interest in Islam before then, the Old Bailey heard.

Rehman, calling himself the Silent Bomber, went online to ask Twitter users for suggestions on which target to choose - Westfield shopping centre or the Tube.

With money from Khan, he stockpiled the chemicals needed to make a huge bomb at his family home in Reading. He even filmed himself setting off a small explosion in his back garden.

She had underlined passages of the Koran which authorised the use of violence, ignoring the words which say it is only appropriate for self-defence. The couple repeatedly went online to research the July 7 bombers who carried out suicide attacks on the London transport network in 2005 in which 52 people died and more than 770 were injured.

Khan helped fuel Rehman's violent ambition by paying for chemicals bought on eBay.

A jury unanimously found the couple guilty of preparing for an act of terrorism in May this year.

The couple, who were separated by two prison guards in the dock, sat quietly as Rehman was sentenced to life with a minimum of 27 years. He was also sentenced to 12 years to run concurrently for possessing an article for terrorist purposes.

Khan will serve a minimum of 25 years.

In sentencing, Mr Justice Baker said that neither Rehman nor Khan, who divorced in recent weeks, would be released if they could not show they no long pose a risk to the public or had renounced Islamic extremism.

The judge said the reason for Rehman's conversion "may never be fully known" but added: "Once you had gained that mindset, I am satisfied that you determined to fulfil the Islamic State's call for jihad; not like some, by travelling to Syria or elsewhere to take part in the conflict in those areas, but by carrying out an act of terrorism within the United Kingdom.

"The type of act which you envisaged not only encompassed the use of explosive substances which would be used to maximum effect so as to cause multiple injuries and fatalities, but specifically included a suicide bombing; an act which envisaged martyrdom, a notion specifically resurrected by Islamic State in order to encourage this type of venture."

Rehman's conversion may have been a combination of his "disaffection" from his family and the wider community along with the limited interest he had once shown in learning about Islam, the judge said.

His family gave evidence for the prosecution and now disown him.

The judge said that the "apparent hopelessness" of Rehman's relationship with Khan, and the belief they would be "reunited in paradise", may also have played a part in his actions.

Khan had sent the judge a handwritten letter as a plea for mercy. She said she had divorced Rehman and that she should have "distanced myself from him a long time ago" but that she did not have the strength to do it.

She wrote: "I have suffered greatly and so have my family and I hope you will take them into your considerations.

"My mother, a judge herself, has lost her position, her child and the respect of family and friends."

The judge noted that Khan, who has an English degree from Greenwich University, had tried to limit her role in the advanced plot. It was only thwarted by the intervention of counter-terrorism officers.

In rejecting the letter, the judge told Khan: "Although I do not consider that it is likely that you were initially attracted by the excitement which appeared to be offered by engagement with the actions of Islamic State, I am satisfied that it was you who became interested in the theological justification of its aims, and thereafter encouraged Mohammed Rehman to pursue its ideology.

"Once you had gained that mindset, I am satisfied that you too determined to fulfil the Islamic State's call for jihad, by the carrying out of an act of terrorism within the United Kingdom."

Counter-terrorism officers foiled the plot after an undercover investigator spotted Rehman's tweet about potential targets.

On May 12, Rehman used a profile picture of "Jihadi John" to post: ''Westfield shopping centre or London Underground? Any advice would be appreciated greatly.''

It was accompanied by a link to the al Qaida uncensored media release about the 7/7 bombings.

The same day, he trawled YouTube for London bombings and Shehzad Tanweer - one of the 7/7 bombers who he referred to as his ''beloved predecessor''.

He also told a Twitter user: ''Why don't you head to the London Underground on the 7th July if you got the balls.''

Police arrested Rehman and Khan on May 28.

Rehman fled his home but officers found a Jihadi John-style hunting knife and chemicals for a massive bomb which was days from completion.

In a police interview, Rehman admitted making and testing explosives but denied intending to harm anyone, saying he had used Twitter to draw attention to himself in the hope he would be arrested and put in custody.

Khan refused to answer questions from police but admitted having conversations with Rehman about IS and jihad but denied knowing about his Twitter activities.

Rehman, of Radstock Road, Reading, and Khan, of Hutton Close, Reading, denied wrongdoing but refused to give evidence in the trial. The couple lived with their respective families.