Man accused of plotting Westminster knife attack 'wanted to send message'

4 June 2018, 15:00

An al Qaeda bomb-maker was arrested in Whitehall with a stash of knives yards from the gates of Downing Street, claiming he had a "message" for Britain's political leaders, a court has heard.

Khalid Mohammed Omar Ali, 28, had returned to Britain from Afghanistan where he had built bombs and detonated more than 300 devices over a five-year period, he told police.

His fingerprints had been found on sticky tape used in the manufacture of bomb parts found in Spin Boldak and Kandahar in Afghanistan in January and July 2012, the Old Bailey was told.

Ali said he owed his loyalty to al Qaeda and the Taliban, that he regarded himself as a "mujahid" and a soldier of Islam, and that he wished to deliver a message to the "leaders and decision-makers" of the country.

Brian Altman QC, prosecuting, said Ali went to Westminster "for one reason and one reason only - to launch a deadly terror attack to strike at the very heart of this country's democracy, by killing a police officer, a member of the military or even a parliamentarian".

He added: "Chillingly, but for the interception of the defendant by the police, he would, say the prosecution, have carried out yet another murderous terror attack in Westminster."

Ali had returned to Britain from Afghanistan in November 2016 - and by 18 March 2017, he was researching his attack by joining a Stand Up to Racism march along Regent Street and on to Whitehall, where he was said to have shown an interest in the area and the police guarding it.

The following month, on 22 April, he allegedly conducted reconnaissance on the MI6 building at Vauxhall Cross, the Houses of Parliament and Whitehall.

Google Street View images of the MI6 building, including cameras and access points, along with images of armed police officers and police officers wearing stab-proof vests, were recovered from a Samsung Galaxy phone that he threw in the River Thames on the day of his attack.

Ali was arrested in Whitehall on 27 April 2017 and found with three knives, one in the right and left pockets of his jacket and a longer blade in the waistband of his tracksuit trousers.

Only four weeks earlier, on 22 March, Khalid Masood had driven into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, killing four people, and then stabbing to death PC Keith Palmer, who was on duty at the carriage gates of the Palace of Westminster.

Evidence from security cameras showed Ali travelling by train from West Ealing station to Ealing Broadway, and then on to Victoria on the District Line, where he emerged from the Tube station, finding his way to "one of the most sensitive and iconic areas in London," Mr Altman said.

Ali claimed that he was armed with the three knives for his own protection, but Mr Altman said: "The message he intended delivering was going to be an act of terrorism by the killing of an innocent person or persons, men or women, going about their daily lives - public servants just doing their duty."

The three-part message Ali claimed he was delivering demanded the West should leave Muslim lands, that Palestine should be returned, and that the West should release its prisoners of war.

Ali denies preparing acts of terrorism by namely purchasing knives and travelling to London on 27 April last year and two charges of possessing an explosive substance in 2012.

The trial continues.