Yorkshire brother of IS suicide bomber purchased 500 ball bearings and had extremist material, jury told

Sheffield Crown Court
Sheffield Crown Court

THE BROTHER of an IS suicide bomber killed in Iraq was caught by police preparing to commit an act of terrorism in the UK, a jury heard.

Undergraduate Mohammed Awan, 24, from Huddersfield, was arrested by anti-terror police days after purchasing 500 ball bearings – which extremist material he possessed advised could be used as shrapnel in home-made bombs, Sheffield Crown Court heard.

Awan, who was studying dentistry at Sheffield University, was found to possess a “significant volume” of extremist material including advice on how to be a ‘sleeper cell’ in the West, it is alleged.

The defendant’s brother Rizwan Awan and his partner Sophie had travelled from Manchester Airport to Istanbul, Turkey, on May 17, 2015 and appears to have joined so-called Islamic State, the court heard.

The brothers were then in contact with each other in August 2015, before reports emerged that Rizwan killed himself as a suicide bomber in Iraq in March 2016.

Meanwhile in the UK, Awan’s internet searches and possession of extremist material was also “progressing” from April 2015 onwards, Simon Davis, prosecuting, told the jury.

Items recovered by counter-terror officers included 11 mobile phones, 16 memory sticks and about 60 SIM cards, containing a host of terrorism-related material.

Police from the North East Counter Terrorism Unit (NECTU) had swooped on June 1 this year, just after Awan bought a bag of 500 ball bearings on the internet on May 29, delivered to the family home on Rudding Street in Huddersfield.

The defendant’s address at Dun Street in Sheffield was also raided and more digital media recovered by police.

One document found was titled “How to Survive in the West” – a key terrorist publication, jurors heard, found in a folder on a memory stick headed “My Stuff” among files on his university coursework.

The document is a guide book advising how to become a sleeper-cell, advice on using ball bearings as shrapnel and how to make bombs.

Awan claimed the memory stick belonged to his dead brother and he kept it for sentimental reasons.

But the prosecution say Rizwan Awan’s own digital devices had been reset to factory settings and wiped clean before he travelled to Syria.

Police also found a video titled “Commander Hamzah Zinjibary’s Training Camp” – titled after a senior al-Qaeda leader killed in a US drone strike, which appeals to young Muslims to join Islamic State, confront and terrorise the enemy and glorifies the brutal methods used. Other graphic videos glorifying IS violence showed beheadings, bodies being dragged behind vehicles and rows of men being executed by being shot in the head.

Mr Davis added: “You put all that together, it is the acceleration what was going on, we say, purely from the mindset to the practical.”

Asked about his purchase of ball bearings, Awan told police it was nothing to do with terrorism and claims to be a keen angler and hunter who was planning to use them to hunt rabbits with a catapult. He denies three charges; two of possession of a document or record containing information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism and one count of engaging in conduct in preparation of terrorist acts or assisting others to.