Rapping jihadi jailed for life for plotting lone wolf attack

Emily Pennink, PA Old Bailey Correspondent
·5-min read

A rapping jihadi dubbed the Masked Menace has been jailed for at least 19 years for plotting a lone wolf knife attack during the coronavirus lockdown.

Jobless Sahayb Abu, 27, bought an 18in sword, a knife, balaclavas and body armour online as he prepared to strike last summer.

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

Abu denied plotting an attack, claiming he had other plans, including becoming a successful rapper like Stormzy, who wore a stab vest on stage at Glastonbury.

But last month an Old Bailey jury found Abu guilty of preparing to engage in terrorist acts.

His brother Muhamed Abu, 32, of Norwood, south London, was cleared of failing to tell authorities about the plot.

Several of Abu’s relatives had been linked to extremism in the past, including a brother, sister and brother in-law who were jailed for collecting and disseminating terrorist documents.

His half-brothers Wail and Suleyman Aweys joined IS in Syria in 2015, where they are both believed to have been killed.

Abu brothers court case
Wail Aweys and Suleyman Aweys, who are believed to have been killed in Syria (Met Police/PA)

On Tuesday, Sahayb Abu, of Dagenham, east London, was jailed for life with a minimum term of 19 years at the Old Bailey.

Sentencing Abu, Judge Mark Dennis QC told him: “You of all people, having seen what befell your two younger brothers when they signed up to the Isis cause in 2015, and having seen the course that other members of your family had taken which had resulted in them receiving prison sentences in 2019 as a result of their activity in respect of the same cause, should at the mature age of 27 years have turned your back on the violent extremist cause and promoted instead the cause of peace and unity which underlies the Islamic faith and so many other faiths around the world.

“Instead, within weeks of your own release from prison you had sought out and joined other extremists committed to supporting and promoting that same violent cause, and within no time you were getting ready to carry out your own act of violence on the streets of this country.

“It was the commendable work of the police in this matter that put an end to your plans. To this date you have yet to express any remorse for your actions.”

The judge said he was satisfied that Abu had everything he needed for a “lone wolf” attack and would have carried it out but for the intervention of police.

He added: “All that remained for him to decide was the time and place for him to carry out the act of violence in furtherance of the cause he supported.”

Judge Dennis also commended the work of the undercover officer known as Rachid whose evidence helped convict the defendant.

Sahayb Abu court case
Sahayb Abu wearing a camouflage hat (Met Police/PA)

The court heard Sahayb Abu had no previous terror-related convictions but had two convictions for battery in 2016 and one for possession a knife in 2017.

The same year, the Abu brothers 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 two years behind bars for a commercial burglary.

On his release on March 20 last year, he 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.

Sahayb Abu court case
An 18in sword Sahayb Abu bought online, paying extra to get it sharpened (Met Police/PA)

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.

Abu 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 soldier 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.

Abu brothers court case
Sahayb Abu in a homemade video (Met Police/PA)

“Got my suicide vest, one click, boom and I’ll see you later.”

He also posted extremist comments online and came to the attention of an undercover officer known as Rachid in an exclusive IS supporters’ encrypted chat group on Telegram.

The pair met twice, and during their conversation used code words “silah” and “duty free” for firearms.

On his arrest, police uncovered a black IS flag in the flat where Sahayb Abu was staying.

In his defence, Abu denied buying the sword and combat gear for a terror attack.

He dismissed extremist posts as “trolling” and claimed he joined the Telegram group to attract women with his “bravado”.

He claimed to hate IS, saying his interest in the terror group was for news of his lost half-brothers.

In mitigation, Michael Ivers QC had argued that Abu’s preparations were not far advanced and came amid various other plans.

But Judge Dennis noted that on his brother Muhamed Abu’s account, the defendant would “come up with all these ideas and never follow through”.

The “big difference” was that Sahayb Abu had “actively done things” to prepare for an attack, he said.

As he was sent down to begin his sentence, Sahayb Abu addressed the judge, saying: “Thank you very much.”