Sky News

UK Jihadi Who Faked Death Admits Terror Offences

The 27-year-old posed with a severed head while he was in Syria, before trying to slip back into Britain unnoticed.

 

A British jihadist who faked his death faces years behind bars after admitting a string of terror offences following his return from Syria.

Imran Khawaja, from Southall in west London, spent six months in the war-torn country last year and attended a terror training camp.

While there, the 27-year-old was pictured holding the severed head of a man.

Imran Khawaja

Khawaja performs the IS hand gesture. Pic: ICSR, King's College London

Khawaja was widely reported in British media to have died in Syria after the terror group Rayat al Tawheed falsely announced his death.

He then tried to slip back into the UK unseen, after asking his taxi driver cousin Tahir Bhatti to drive through Bulgaria to pick him up and take him home, avoiding the well-worn jihadist route via flights to and from Turkey.

But the pair were arrested at the port of Dover in Kent on 3 June.

At an Old Bailey hearing last month, Khawaja admitted preparation of terrorist acts on or before 26 January last year, and attending a terrorism training camp between January and 4 June last year.

Imran Khawaja

Khawaja, farthest left, with militants. Pic: ICSR, King's College London

He also admitted receiving weapons training and possessing a firearm for terrorist use.

But he denied a charge of soliciting murder between 25 January last year and 4 June last year with and against people unknown.

His pleas can only now be reported since his co-defendants admitted terror charges and the prosecution decided not to pursue a trial.

A court previously heard that by June last year, Bhatti had convinced his cousin to return to the UK saying his parents were not well and he should come home.

Imran Khawaja

Khawaja, left, with an acquaintance. Pic: ICSR, King's College London

Joel Bennathan QC, defending, had argued: "He was doing what Muslim families are meant to do - tell them to desist and come out of Syria."

But the prosecution had claimed the "road trip" was carefully orchestrated with the use of code words in messages.

Last December, Asim Ali, 33, from Ealing, west London, pleaded guilty to making £300 available to Khawaja while knowing or having reason to suspect it might be used for the purposes of terrorism.

He denied another charge of preparing a terrorist act between January and June 2014.

Father-of-four Bhatti, 44, of no fixed abode, who is of Pakistani origin, on Tuesday pleaded guilty assisting an offender.

He has previously pleaded not guilty to preparing a terrorist act by helping Khawaja; having information about terrorism; and assisting an offender.

Mr Justice Baker ordered the outstanding charges be left on file and granted Bhatti conditional bail ahead of sentencing for all the defendants on 5 and 6 February.

Khawaja is expected to receive a lengthy prison sentence for his activities in Syria while his co-defendants are likely to also face jail terms.


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