Western jihadism may have suffered a serious blow with the deaths of Anwar Al Awlaki and Samir Khan, but the war in the United Kingdom to counter terrorist networks continues. In the week prior to Awlakis reported death in Yemen, an operation against a group of seven Birmingham natives resulted in serious charges leveled against them as part of an alleged Pakistani-connected plot to carry out a terrorist operation in the UK.
In addition, charges were brought against a pair of German converts to jihad who had attempted to enter the UK to connect with radicals there who were intercepted at the border with copies of articles from Awlaki and Khans Inspire magazine.
The separate arrests were made following intelligence-led operations that disclosed not only the degree in which British security services are in close contact with their counterparts around the world, but their vigilance in identifying potential terrorist networks at home. In both cases, links abroad showed how the UK remains a hub of radical activity in Europe.
The arrests in Birmingham appear to have come after a long-term operation by a local counterterrorism unit and MI5 to pinpoint a cell of individuals they believe were providing support for terrorist networks in Pakistan and planning a "bombing campaign.
The arrested men are between 20 and 32 years old, and their names indicate they are Pakistani natives. In the immediate aftermath of the arrests, the police said only that the men were part of a "large operation that was "Al Qaeda inspired and was the most "significant counter-terrorism operation so far this year.
Since then, charges have been filed that reveal a network with links to Pakistan that involved a "suicide bombing campaign/event. According to court documents, since last December 25, two of the men, Irfan Nasser (30) and Irfan Khalid (26), plotted to commit "acts of terrorism within the UK or assisting another to commit such acts.
The men allegedly travelled to Pakistan for training that "include[ed] bomb making, weapons and poison making and professed their "intention to be[come] a suicide bomber, according to West Midlands Police. They also allegedly made martyrdom films, planned a bombing campaign, sought to purchase chemicals and build explosives detonators, recruited others and provided advise to other wannabe jihadists on how to travel to Pakistan.
Another man, 26-year-old Ashik Ali, also is suspected of having been involved in the conspiracy and having expressed his "intention to be[come] a suicide bomber. He does not, however, appear to have made the trip to Pakistan. His older brother, Bahader (28), was charged with fundraising and not reporting the plot to authorities. (...)(...more)