Rebecca Camber and Sara Smyth, Daily Mail, February 20, 2015
A Muslim convert who planned to behead a soldier had been radicalised by Britain’s most notorious hate preacher just weeks before, it can be revealed today.
Brustholm Ziamani, 19, fell under the spell of cleric Anjem Choudary and his followers last April and became obsessed with the killers of Fusilier Lee Rigby.
Months after joining the preacher’s banned terror group al-Muhajiroun (ALM), he underwent a dramatic transformation that culminated in him wandering the streets looking for a serviceman to execute in a Woolwich-style killing.
As Ziamani was yesterday found guilty of arming himself with a hammer and a 12-inch knife for the copycat attack, the UK’s most senior counter terrorism officer said the case illustrated how quickly disaffected young Britons could be radicalised.
Police and MI5 consider the plot to be one of the most serious to have threatened the UK since the escalation of the Syrian conflict.
Detectives were so concerned at the speed of his radicalisation that after his first arrest in June Scotland Yard launched the biggest counter-terrorism surveillance operation since the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby in Woolwich, dedicating 40 officers full time to keep tabs on him.
Known to his friends as Bruce, Ziamani was raised a devout Jehovah’s Witness by his Congolese parents, who took him door-to-door preaching and forced him to read the Bible daily.
But he rebelled against his strict upbringing, leaving school with no qualifications to join a gang involved in robberies, drug dealing and procuring prostitutes.
Within two weeks of meeting Choudary’s mob at Camberwell Mosque, he was writing on Facebook: ‘Sharia law is on its way. On our streets we will implement it.’
Overnight, he converted to radical Islam, tucking his ankle-length robes underneath his clothes and stashing copies of the Koran at his girlfriend’s house to keep his beliefs hidden from his parents.
Soon after, Ziamani left the family home in Camberwell and slept at the mosque before moving in with a member of the ALM group–who mentored him at secret meetings in the basement of a halal sweet shop.
When detectives first arrested Ziamani in June they discovered a letter in which he pledged to behead British soldiers.
Incredibly, Scotland Yard decided to release him on bail when he denied planning any attack.
And despite close monitoring, Ziamani managed to buy a hammer.
He was arrested again in Whitechapel, east London, on August 19 carrying a rucksack with weapons wrapped in an Islamic flag–hoping to emulate his ‘heroes’, Woolwich killers Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale.
Ziamani’s ex-girlfriend yesterday recalled how the ‘kind, affectionate’ teenager she loved changed within weeks.
The 17-year-old said he tried to convert her–showing her video tutorials on how to tie a hijab and looked up Muslim baby names.
She added: ‘It was almost laughable–the night I first met him I was wearing a short dress and heels.’
As Ziamani was warned he faced a substantial jail sentence at the Old Bailey, Choudary said his protege ‘didn’t stand a chance’ because the jury was ‘biased’.
Britain’s top counter-terrorism officer, Commander Richard Walton, said: ‘Ziamani was an impressionable young man who became radicalised then rapidly developed an extremist, violent mindset.’