The jihadi and the beheading plot

Date: 21 Feb 2008


The jihadi and the beheading plot  
By Dominic Casciani 
BBC News home affairs reporter  

Parviz Khan checking in on his way to Pakistan with equipment 
Five men have been convicted for being part of an alleged terrorist cell in Birmingham. The group's leader has been jailed for life. 

In any other business, Parviz Khan would have been known as the fixer - the guy to go to when you needed something done. 

But in reality he was the frustrated jihadi who got tired of being told to know his place. 

Despite his significance among an international network, the unemployed Birmingham charity worker was unhappy with his lot. He didn't want to be known as the man supplying thousands of pounds of equipment to the Afghan front line. 

Prosecutors said he wanted to do more for his cause. And it was this desire to elevate himself to a hero of the jihad against the enemies of Muslims that led to his DIY plan to kidnap and kill a British Muslim soldier. 

We don't know how and when Khan became immersed in the violent rhetoric of an extreme political ideology which sees Muslims as victims of the West. There are suggestions he had a misspent youth, drinking and clubbing - and changed suddenly in his late 20s when he began raising money for Muslim causes around the world. 

  Khan wanted to get himself physically involved in acts of terrorism as well as supply others 

Prosecutor Nigel Rumfitt, QC

Plot revealed by MI5 bug 

But then he went further. He became a key link man between armed mujahideen groups in Afghanistan fighting British forces and those prepared to raise money for them in the UK. 

And the bugging evidence in the trial revealed him to be someone the police say was a paranoid fanatic, capable of indoctrinating his own small children to hate. 

Khan did not raise money for guns. Over two years he and three of his co-accused bought cheap electronic goods and other kit that could be used for a military purpose, say police. 

Assembled in the suburbs of England's second city, the shipments were freighted to Pakistan and onwards to the groups Khan was supporting. 

Earthquake cover 

During the trial of Zahoor Iqbal and Amjad Mahmood, two of his co-accused, the jury heard how Khan had thousands of pounds at his disposal for both goods in the UK and spending in Pakistan. 

'Military' kit bought in shopping centres
Packaged at home
Air-freighted from Birmingham
Distributed in Afghanistan

Khan's shopping trips around Birmingham 

Mahmood was found not guilty of helping Khan's projects. But Iqbal, the trial heard, wired some 12,000 in instalments from the UK to Pakistan for Khan to collect at the other end. 

Khan's organised his first known shipment in December 2004 and sent 44 boxes weighing 809kg to himself. He collected them in a village in the Pakistan-controlled part of Kashmir. 

When many British-Pakistani people organised aid for earthquake-hit Kashmir, Khan used their efforts as cover to quietly send goods through a Birmingham freight firm. 

His second shipment went out in October 2005 and a third in July 2006, this one weighing almost 300kg. 

Foxton Road: Khan's home used to assemble consignments 
On his return to the UK after the third trip, police questioned him and found he was carrying a notebook. 

Written inside, say prosecutors, was a "shopping list" of items from his "terrorist contacts" which included sleeping bags, laser rangefinders, boots and battery chargers. 

Prosecutors say that when the security services intercepted and opened the final shipment in December 2006, the contents broadly matched the list. 

Khan had packed airbeds, walkie-talkies, mobile phones, an audio bug detector, a hearing enhancer, a video camera, a soldering iron and waterproof map holders. 

Creative shopping 

Khan had also been exceptionally creative in fulfilling expectations. 

Angler's gloves: Useful for snipers 

A visit to a golfing shop identified range finders, a gadget used to measure the fairway. But in Khan's hands, say the police, it became a method to better target a soldier's head. 

And then there were the split finger gloves favoured by anglers. One of the bugged conversations tied these gloves to snipers, with Khan saying they could be used to keep the trigger finger warm until the moment comes to fire. 

In all, believe the security services, he spent 7,000 on goods in that one shipment - and that Zahoor Iqbal, Mohammed Irfan and Hamid Elasmar all helped to put it together for shipping. 

Frustration builds 

But Khan was no longer satisfied with his role as an international haulier. 

"Khan wanted to get himself physically involved in acts of terrorism as well as supply others," said Nigel Rumfitt QC, prosecuting in the trial. 

Destination Mirpur: Khan shipped crates to himself in Pakistan 
"But he had a sick mother to look after. 

"His bosses overseas made clear to him that his supply network was of great value to them and could not be sacrificed to his desire for combat operations." 

And so Khan came up with a solution that prosecutors said would satisfy his own craving for violence without compromising his main role. 

Khan was enraged with the idea of Muslims serving in the British army. He decided to try to kidnap a Gambian man serving in the army. 

According to prosecutors, based on evidence gathered with an MI5 bug, the plan was to lure a soldier away with the help of drug dealers who would approach the man on a night out. 

Once separated, he would be bundled into a car, taken to lock-up garage and beheaded on camera. The subsequent film would be circulated on extremist websites. 

Khan's main hope for help had been Basiru Gassama, a Gambian. But he never won his support. Gassama, however, broke the law by failing to alert the authorities to Khan's planning. 

Four months later Khan returned to the plan. He again showed Gassama videos of beheadings - and failed again to enlist his help. 

Prosecutors said Khan turned to his friend Amjad Mahmood who worked in the local grocer's shop. But a jury, after listening to the bugged conversations, concluded that Mr Mahmood was not guilty of failing to alert the authorities. 

Khan is going to jail having been described in court as an exceptionally dangerous man. 

We don't know how close he really was to carrying out his beheading plot - not least because Gassama had declined to help. 

But police say that if they had not acted when they did, there would have been a dead soldier somewhere in Birmingham.