Britain jails would-be Taliban fighter
LONDON (Reuters) - A London dentist who planned to fight for the Afghan Taliban against British and U.S. forces was jailed on Tuesday for preparing to commit terrorist acts.
Sohail Qureshi, 30, was arrested in October 2006 at London's Heathrow airport as he prepared to fly to Pakistan carrying around 9,000 pounds ($17,800) in cash, medical supplies and night vision gear.
Qureshi, who was born in Pakistan, was sentenced to 4-1/2 years but in practice is likely to be free within a year, after serving half that term and allowing for time he has already spent in custody.
Describing him as a "dedicated supporter of Islamist extremism", prosecutors said material on his computer's hard drive showed he had intended to fight with the Taliban in Afghanistan against British and U.S. forces.
Police also uncovered a discussion with an associate on a militant Web site referring to his Pakistan trip.
"All I know is that it is a two- or three-week operation. Pray that I will kill many, brother. Revenge, revenge, revenge," it read.
Prosecutor Jonathan Sharp told London's Old Bailey court that Qureshi also had fighting and first aid manuals, theological notes justifying terrorism, a book he had written called "My Dad the bomb maker" detailing how he had become a militant, and CD-Rom pictures of him brandishing an M16 rifle.
"There were also appalling pictures and videos of mutilated corpses and videos of executions and the 9/11 atrocity," Sharp said. "He was taking it on the trip to keep his mind focused on his terrorist goal."
Qureshi pleaded guilty to preparing for the commission of terrorist acts, possessing an article for a terrorist purpose and possession of records likely to be useful in terrorism.
It was the first conviction under a 2006 law covering cases where suspects are preparing to commit an act of terrorism but fall short of having a concrete plan in place.
The court was told that his arrest also led to the conviction of Samina Malik, 23, who had written poems praising Osama bin Laden, supporting martyrdom and discussing beheading.
Police had uncovered Internet contact between Qureshi and Malik, who worked airside at a shop in Heathrow's Terminal 4.
The court was told that before his planned Pakistan trip, he e-mailed her and asked: "What is the situation like at work? Is the check-in very harsh or have things cooled down a bit?"
In a statement, Scotland Yard's Assistant Commissioner of Specialist Operations, Peter Clarke said: "Qureshi is a trained and committed terrorist, who by his own admission had contacts within al Qaeda since the mid-1990s.
"He wanted to carry out terrorist acts overseas and gathered the equipment to help him do this."
Malik was found guilty of possessing terrorism-related documents and was given a suspended sentence last month.
(Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Sami Aboudi)
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