Terrorist searched for weapons online using 'burner' social media identities

-Credit: (Image: Nottinghamshire Police)
-Credit: (Image: Nottinghamshire Police)

A convicted terrorist from Nottinghamshire created "burner" social media accounts and email addresses to search the internet for weapons. Nottingham Crown Court heard how Adeel Ulhaq also joined a WhatsApp group called “Pakistan Arms and Ammunition” and asked one of its members if he had a gun for sale.

The 29-year-old father made internet searches including “remote firearms transactions” and “can I buy an air rifle in the UK?” All of this took place shortly after he was released partway through a five-year sentence, imposed at the Old Bailey, for being in “extensive” contact with Islamic State members in Syria and arranging for a teenager from Cardiff to travel to the Middle East to join the extremist group.

Jailing him for two years and nine months, Judge Nirmal Shant KC said: “You are an offender of particular concern. Overall, you had an interest in guns, an interest in combat and an interest in extreme views. These were persistent and flagrant breaches of your conditions.”

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Nadeem Holland, prosecuting, said Ulhaq was jailed for five years at the Old Bailey, in February 2016, for the initial terrorism offence. He said: “That included him having extensive contact with terrorists originally based in Syria and supporting and assisting a 19-year-old to travel from the UK to Syria to join Islamic State.

“He was released from that sentence initially on March 1, 2017, and was then recalled two months later for contacting a serving prisoner. He was then released a second time on May 3, 2019, with notification requirements lasting until April 2, 2034.”

Mr Holland said after being released, Ulhaq then used email addresses under different names and had a mobile phone, all of which he failed to tell his offender manager about, as he was required to do. He said there was a mobile phone registered under the name “Ryan Clarke,” and Facebook accounts under the names “Gemma Oliver” and “Jamie Lewis” which were used by the defendant.

He said: “The Jamie Lewis account ‘liked’ a group called ‘AK47 Fans’. An email address called ‘Zuperstar1’ had relevant emails from various WhatsApp chats and an eBay account. There was another email address ‘superstar1111’ and a bank account registered to his father’s name.

Police went to his property on January 19, 2023, and there was a delay in them getting access to the property. When they did he said to them ‘I knew you were coming’ and a mobile phone had been secreted under a chest of drawers in his mother’s bedroom.

“Examination of that mobile phone revealed the defendant was a member of a WhatsApp group called ‘Pakistan Arms and Ammunition’ and there was one conversation where the defendant asked another member if they had any guns for sale. There were internet searches including ‘remote firearms transactions,’ ‘covert policing’ and ‘can I buy an air rifle in the UK?’

“A number of documents had also been downloaded including a sales brochure for rifles for sale in Pakistan and software had also been installed to allow highly-encrypted messages to be sent and to allow his IP address to be hidden.”

Mr Holland said: “We say the reason the defendant was not notifying the police was he was using them for purposes the police wanted to know about following his sentence. These were deliberate and prolonged breaches and efforts were made to hide the phones.”

On April 3, this year, Ulhaq, of Sutton-in-Ashfield, pleaded guilty to five separate counts of failing to comply with notification of a periodic change requirement under the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008.

They were that he failed to tell the police, as he was required to after being released from a six-year prison term imposed in 2016, that he was using particular email accounts, mobile phone numbers and a Lloyds bank account.

Aisha Khan, mitigating, said her client’s “strongest mitigation was his guilty plea”. She said: “Mr Ulhaq found it very difficult to live his life having been released from prison. The reality of living with these notification requirements he has found hard. He has not seen his daughter since March 2023 and that has affected him very much.”

In 2016, Ulhaq, then 21 and of Westbourne Road, Sutton, was sentenced to five years for helping in the preparation of an act of terrorism and another year for funding terrorism. He was jailed alongside two other men following an Old Bailey trial.

Ul-Haq had helped another man travel to Syria to fight as a jihadi. He used Twitter to ask for charitable donations in support of "humanitarian aid convoys" and other aid efforts to assist those affected by the Syrian crisis but planned to spend the money on helping jihadis.

Ulhaq’s principal crime involved encouraging Cardiff teenager, Aseel Muthana, to travel to Syria to wage war for ISIS.

He had prolonged phone communication with the 19-year-old, and gave him multiple tips about how to contact fellow jihadis when Muthana reached southern Turkey, en route to Syria. Muthana ended up joining ISIS and, as of November 2016, had never returned from the war zone.