A couple who met on an internet dating website have been jailed after plotting a Christmas terror attack.
Munir Mohammed and Rowaida El-Hassan were sentenced at the Old Bailey on Thursday (February 22) for their Islamic State-inspired bomb or ricin attack.
Mohammed, of Leopold Street, Derby, enlisted the help of 33-year-old pharmacist and mother-of-two Rowaida El-Hassan, of Willesden Lane, Brent.
The 36-year-old was handed a life sentence with a minimum prison term of 14 years, while El-Hassan was jailed for 12 years with five more years on extended licence.
See our live blog updates below for more details of the case, sentencing and reaction.
Keep up to date with the latest news from west London via the free getwestlondon app.
You can set up your app to see news and events from your area, and receive notifications for any breaking news.
Time to call it a day...
Thanks for being with us this evening.
We’re bringing this blog to a close now.
Have a good evening.
Click here to read more about the sentencing of ‘lonely heart’ terrorists Munir Mohammed and Rowaida El-Hassan.
El-Hassan separated from her children
The court heard that since her conviction, El-Hassan’s two children had been taken to live in Sudan.
'He did not come to this country to attack it'
In mitigation Charles Bott QC: “Mr Mohammed did not come to this country to attack it. He worked hard and he studied diligently. “Whatever other agenda he had, he was becoming increasingly frustrated at more than three years it took to adjudicate on his application.”
Speaking in code
In August 2016, Mohammed offered to do “a new job in the UK”, while chatting with an IS commander online.
He went on to complain at the lack of instructions, asking in coded language how to make “dough” (explosives) for “Syrian bread” (a bomb) and “other types of food”. When police raided his home on December 12 2016, they found hydrogen peroxide in a wardrobe and hydrochloric acid in the freezer.
Meetings near El-Hassan’s Brent home
Mohammed was drawn to University College London graduate El-Hassan’s skills as a pharmacist.
The court was told she was looking for a simple man to “vibe with on a spiritual and intellectual level”, according to her dating profile.
By the spring of 2016 the pair were in regular contact on WhatsApp and had met three times in a London park near El-Hassan’s home.
The court heard that Mohammed arrived in Britain in the back of a lorry and claimed asylum in February 2014.
He became “frustrated” at being kept in limbo for three years and appealed to Labour MP Margaret Beckett for help with his immigration problems.
Using false identity documents, he worked at Kerry Foods in Derby, making sauces for supermarket ready meals, and wooing a potential British bride he met online.
A timeline of the case
- December 2016 - Mohammed was found with two of the three components for TATP explosives as well as manuals on how to make explosives, mobile phone detonators, and deadly ricin poison - and arrested.
- The pair were charged with preparing terrorist acts between November 2015 and December 2016.
- October 2017 - The Old Bailey trial began
- January 2018 - They were both found guilty
- February 2018 - Mohammed and El-Hassan were locked up
Mohammed introduced extremism into their relationship - but El-Hassan "embraced it"
El-Hassan never objected to being sent the material as her two children slept in her bedroom, and even asked for more, the judge said.
Even though Mohammed introduced extremism in their relationship, El-Hassan “embraced it and became more and more absorbed by it to the point she became an enthusiastic and encouraging partner”, he said.
Mohammed volunteered for a mission with an Islamic State commander
Sudanese asylum seeker Munir Mohammed volunteered for a “lone wolf” UK mission in a Facebook chat with an Islamic State commander.
He then enlisted pharmacist Rowaida El-Hassan to help find ingredients for a bomb after seeking her out online.
At the time of his arrest in December 2016, Mohammed had two of the three components for TATP explosives as well as manuals on how to make bombs and ricin poison.
The Old Bailey judge highlighted Mohammed’s “vast store” of IS propaganda depicting the “abhorrent” acts of murder, including nearly 26,000 images on his phone.
How did the pair meet?
The terrorist couple met on online dating website, singlemuslim.com, which calls itself: “The world’s leading Muslim introduction agency”.
It encourages users to register in order to find their “marriage partner”.
Mohammed decided on a 'lone wolf' bomb attack, says Judge
Judge Michael Topolski QC told Mohammed:
“You decided that yours would be a lone wolf attack.
“You decided the means of your attack would involve you making an IED.
“You had not decided whether that would be made with an ordinary bomb or whether you could do more damage and more terror by exploding a device containing ricin.”
He carefully and deliberately drew El-Hassan in to the point where her commitment was “consistent and sustained”, the judge said.