Aspiring rapper plotted lockdown terror attack

Screengrab from a home video made by Sahayb Abu

Screengrab issued by police from a home video made by Sahayb Abu. - Credit: PA

An aspiring rapper has been found guilty of plotting a terror attack with an 18in sword.

Jobless Sahayb Abu, 27, who lives in Dagenham, had bought two blades, balaclavas, a camouflage hat and body armour online in readiness, the Old Bailey heard.

He was arrested on July 9 after discussing guns with an undercover police officer, who he met on a so-called Islamic State (IS) supporters' chat group.

A jury deliberated for 21 hours and 32 minutes to find him guilty of preparing for terrorist acts by a majority of 11 to one.

His brother, Muhamed Abu, 32, wept as he was cleared of failing to disclose information about a plot to authorities. He appeared distressed at Sahayb's conviction, sobbing: "He's a clown, he's a buffoon."

Following the verdicts, Commander Richard Smith said Sahayb Abu was a "very dangerous individual", despite portraying himself as a clownish aspiring rapper called Masked Menace.

Mr Smith, head of the Met's counter-terrorism command, said: "There is no doubt in my mind that Sahayb had murderous intent, some of that was evidenced from the kind of things that he was posting online and sharing with others, including his brother."

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The court heard how some of the defendants' relatives had been linked to extremism in the past.

Mr Smith declined to speculate on whether the Abu brothers were radicalised within the family, online or in jail, but said: "Nobody is born with hatred and intolerance within them."

The court heard how the defendants' half-brothers Wail and Suleyman Aweys went to Syria in 2015, where they are both believed to have died.

Sahayb Abu wearing a balaclava in a home video

Sahayb Abu wearing a balaclava in a home video shown at the Old Bailey. - Credit: PA

Two years later, the defendants were caught with their older half-brother Ahmed Aweys putting up poppy posters in east London saying British tax was used to "kill Muslims".

Sahayb Abu went on to associate with known terrorists while serving a sentence for burglary at Wandsworth prison in south London.

Among them was IS supporter Husnain Rashid, who was jailed for at least 25 years in 2018 for calling for an attack on Prince George.

Sahayb Abu was released from prison on March 20 last year, and went from being "locked up to locked down" as the Covid-19 pandemic struck, jurors heard.

Over the next three months, he trawled the internet for IS propaganda, including pictures of fighters in balaclavas with guns. He spent his £400 monthly benefits on two balaclavas, body armour, gloves, a camouflage hat and two blades, including an 18in sword, paying extra to get it sharpened.

He posed in his combat gear in homemade videos sent to Muhamed Abu.

Addressing the camera, he said "What, are you talking to me?... Boom!", in reference to the Robert De Niro line from the film Taxi Driver.

He boasted the balaclava would "do the job" and said he was "just waiting on the body armour... the body armour stop a bullet".

In another disturbing rap, he described London Mayor Sadiq Khan as a "sell-out" and talked about murdered fusilier Lee Rigby.

He said: "I'm trying to see many Lee Rigby's heads rolling on the ground, man I shoot up a crowd cos I'm a night stalker, got my shank got my guns straight Isis supporter, reject democracy...

"Got my suicide vest, one click, boom and I'll see you later."

Sahayb Abu

Sahayb Abu will be sentenced on April 9. - Credit: Met Police

He also posted extremist comments online and came to the attention of undercover officer Rachid via an exclusive IS supporters' encrypted chat group.

The pair met up twice, and during their conversation used code words "silah" and "duty free" for firearms, which Rachid claimed he could import.

Sahayb said the time was coming to be an "action man rather than a chatty man" and commented "we need a 9/11 2.0", in reference to the World Trade Center attacks in New York.

By then, police took the decision to arrest the brothers on July 9 last year.

In a search of their father's flat where Sahayb had been living, a black IS flag was discovered.

In his defence, he denied buying the sword and combat gear for a terror attack. He dismissed extremist posts as "trolling" and claimed he joined the IS chat group to attract women with his "bravado".

Sahayb wanted to become famous like Stormzy, who wore a stab vest when he performed at Glastonbury, jurors were told

He claimed to hate IS, saying his interest in the terror group was for news of his lost half-brothers Wail and Suleyman Aweys.
He also said the undercover police officer, dubbed the Man with the Golden Gun after the James Bond film, had "tricked" him.

His lawyer Michael Ivers QC said the personas - "merciless troll", "Jihadi fan boy", and "wannabe drill rapper" - all betrayed a desperate desire to be accepted.

Mr Ivers said: "If there was no lockdown there would be no trial, as simple as that."

Muhamed Abu, of Norwood, south London, declined to give evidence, but in an outburst in the dock denied he was "anti-British".

It was claimed on his behalf that the trainee plumber was "very upset" with his fantasist brother for landing him in the dock.

The defendants had no previous terror convictions but had been jailed for the same commercial burglary. Sahayb had also been caught drug dealing in France and having a knife.

His half-brother was jailed for 25 months in 2019 for disseminating terrorist material. His sister was imprisoned for 19 months for collecting terrorist information, and her partner received 15 months for dissemination.

Judge Mark Dennis QC remanded Sahayb Abu into custody to be sentenced on April 9.