Duncan Gardham, Telegraph (London), September 9, 2011
Two undercover police officers posed as vulnerable young men in order to infiltrate a group of British jihadists trying to recruit young men to fight and die in Afghanistan.
Security sources have said that many such young men actually receive bomb-making lessons and are sent back to Britain to act as terrorists.
The officers spent almost a year pretending to be radicalised by the group, even converting to Islam and adopting Muslim names
But they were recording the meetings they held with the recruiters and writing up detailed notes once they had left their company.
Munir Farooqi, 54, was at the centre of the plot to persuade vulnerable young men to fight, kill and die in a jihad in Afghanistan, using what police later called his “war stories.”
Farooqi bragged to the officers that he had fought with the Taliban and told them they could become martyrs for the jihad cause.
He also found amusement in the sight of the flag draped coffins of Western troops returning from Afghanistan.
He was given four life sentences and told he must serve a minimum of nine years after being found guilty of preparing acts of terrorism, soliciting to murder and dissemination of terrorist publications.
Passing sentence Mr Justice Richard Henriques said: “You are in my judgment a very dangerous man, an extremist, a fundamentalist with a determination to fight abroad.”
His operation was, “sophisticated, ruthless and well honed,” the judge said, with the sole purpose to deliver home-grown fighters willing to “fight, kill and die” abroad.
“Their victims would be allied forces, including British soldiers,” Mr Justice Henriques added.
“You found the images of coffins draped in American flags as a source of great amusement.
“As a resident of this country you owe allegiance to the Crown. That appears to have escaped your attention.”
The judge said Farooqi had used his experiences fighting with the Taliban as a “tool of recruitment” to run the “Manchester recruitment centre” from Islamic bookstalls in the city.
Farooqi, a father-of-three was born in Pakistan but moved to Britain with his family when he was about five.
He was a Taliban veteran who had travelled to Afghanistan within weeks of the September 11 attacks.
Farooqi was captured in November 2001 at Mazar-e-Sharif with 2,000 others by forces from the Northern Alliance, which ousted the Taliban.
He was incarcerated at the notorious Sheberghan prison in Northern Afghanistan, stronghold of the ruthless Northern Alliance leader General Dostum.
However Farooqi was apparently one of the lucky prisoners who were taken by Pakistani troops to a jail over the border in Peshawar.
His wife flew from the UK money to pay his way out and by May 2002 he was heading back to Manchester.
But he never lost his passion for the Taliban cause, telling an undercover police officer at one point: “You know when you’ve tasted the honey then you only want more . . . until Allah takes you from this earth.”
He was stopped by intelligence officers in 2003 as he returned from Pakistan and was found in possession of a number of photos taken from the mountainous Swat area of Pakistan showing men holding rifles.
Farooqi’s passport was seized during the investigation and showed he regularly visited Muslim countries and investigators found he used the email address [email protected]
In Manchester he began running a “dawah stall” on Longsight market to spread the word of Islam and turned his family’s four-bedroom home into a production centre for propaganda. When police later raided it they found 50,000 books and pamphlets and 5,000 DVDs.
The recruitment ring also included Matthew Newton, 29, a former estate agent and former British army recruit from Levenshulme, Manchester who had been pictured with Bez, one of the stars from Manchester indie band the Happy Mondays, before Newton converted to Islam.
The third member was Israr Malik, 23, an unemployed petty fraudster who was living at home.
He met Farooqi at the dawah stall in 2008 and said he had found Islam again after being involved in criminal activity and splitting up from his partner.
In January 2009 he was sentenced to 18 months in Lancaster Farms Young Offenders Institute where he was visited by Farooqi who gave him Islamist literature to read.
Malik, from Fallowfield, Manchester, was electronically tagged following his release but he became a disciple of Farooqi, calling him “Uncle,” telling him he was willing to die for the cause and urging the undercover officers to do the same.
Andrew Edis, QC, prosecuting, told Manchester Crown Court: “This was an organised attempt to raise men for Jihad–to recruit fighters…to fight, to kill and to die if necessary”.
In October 2008 the book stall was approached separately by two men, known only as “Ray” and “Simon,” who pretended to be down on their luck and interested in Islam.
In fact the two were undercover police officers from the North West Counter Terrorism Unit–although at first they knew nothing about each other.
On 30 June 2009 Farooqi told “Simon” about his time in Afghanistan and talked about firing a rocket launcher. He spoke about the feeling when a bullet hits the chest, and said: “It’s a beautiful feeling you can’t describe it.”
In a bugged conversation between Farooqi and Malik a month later, Malik told him: “I wanna die” and asked for “strong lectures” to maintain his resolve.
“I have it in me uncle,” he said. “I just needed jumpstarting–I was like a car, a Ferrari, parked up but no one drove me for a long time, I just needed to rev it up.”
The recruiters used a core of terrorist publications in their attempts to persuade the two officers that they should enlist, and showed them disturbing images of killings in Muslim countries.
One of the main tracts were six hour-long lectures called Constants on the Path of Jihad, delivered by Anwar al-Awlaki, one of the leaders of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular (AQAP.
At one point, Awlaki, with a trace of an American accent from his youth spent in the country, urged followers to “fight even if no one remains on the face of the Earth except one Muslim.”
Other DVDs given to the officers were by controversial preachers Sheikh Khalid Yasin and Sheikh Feiz.
The recruiters also took the undercover officers to mosques in Levenshulme, Ardwick, Rusholme and Longsight so they could listen to some of the city’s most “inspiring and charismatic” imams.
But it was the Khanqah Naqshandia Mosque in Burnage that appeared to be their favourite.
Farooqi himself avoided the mosque because of his status as a veteran fighter and his concern that the mosque might suffer guilt by association with him.
The preacher at the mosque, who was arrested with the others amid local controversy, did not urge the officers to go to jihad but told them that Munir Farooqi was their teacher and that they should follow him.
Malik was convicted of preparing acts of terrorism and soliciting to murder and given an Indeterminate Sentence for Public Protection with a minimum of five years.
Newton, from Levenshulme, Manchester, was convicted of preparing acts of terrorism and dissemination of terrorist publications and was jailed for six years.
Farooqi’s son, Harris, was cleared by the jury of preparing acts of terrorism and sat in the back of the public gallery as his father was jailed for life.