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Dublin: 1°C Friday 22 January 2021
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Britain's youngest terrorist: 15-year-old boy sentenced over plans to 'run a cop over'

The boy (then 14) suggested the man should “break into someone’s house and get your first taste of beheading”.

Queen Elizabeth arriving for the Service of Commemoration at Westminster Abbey, London to mark the centenary of the Gallipoli campaign and Anzac Day.
Queen Elizabeth arriving for the Service of Commemoration at Westminster Abbey, London to mark the centenary of the Gallipoli campaign and Anzac Day.
Image: PA

A 15-YEAR-OLD BOY from Blackburn in England has been sentenced after encouraging a man in Australia to commit an act of terrorism at a national day of remembrance.

The boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was found guilty of inciting another person to commit an act of terrorism overseas at Manchester Crown Court Crown Square.

He was sentenced today to life in a youth detention centre with a minimum of five years.

The BBC reports that the court was told he sent thousands of online messages to an alleged Australian jihadist, and was planning “a massacre”.

He is believed to be the youngest Briton found guilty of a terror offence.

On 25 March 2015, the boy, who was then 14, was initially arrested by Lancashire police at his home in Blackburn on suspicion of threats to kill his teachers at school.

His Samsung mobile phone was seized and examined by police. The phone contained extreme images, including a screen saver of Islamic State militants and references to Jihad. There was also evidence of internet searches for making explosives and how to create a detonator from scratch.

Greater Manchester Police said a message between the boy and someone called ‘Illyas’ was also discovered on a messaging service where they discussed a plan to ‘run a cop over’ at the Anzac Day parade in Melbourne on 25 April 2015.

Anzac stands for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and commemorates the World War I battle in Turkey.

Officers from the North West Counter Terrorism Unit (NWCTU) were contacted and the boy was arrested on 2 April 2015 on suspicion of preparing for an act of terrorism under Section 5 of the Terrorism Act 2006.

Further investigations revealed there had been continuous contact between the boy and ‘Illyas’ via a messaging service that used an encrypted code and could not be read. However, an officer from NWCTU developed a specialist computer programme which was able to crack the code and enable the messages to be read.

Once examined, officers established the boy had been messaging a man in Australia between 16 March and 25 March 2015. During that nine day period, in excess of 3000 messages had been sent.

‘First taste of beheading’

The messages initially started with the boy questioning the man and asking him where his allegiances lay before discussing plans for the Anzac Day attack. The boy suggested the man should “break into someone’s house and get your first taste of beheading”.

He also gave the man three options for the attacks. Option one was a knife attack on police, two was targeting an officer with a car and option three was a gun attack.

Images were also sent, including an exact replica of a knife used in the Rambo films of which the boy commented “the handle is perfect for tearing through throat”.

The information was shared with police in Melbourne and following warrants on 18 April 2015, an 18-year-old man was arrested. A search of a nearby car found a knife underneath the driver’s seat.

Detective Chief Superintendent Tony Mole from the North West Counter Terrorism Unit said: “After the information was discovered on the boy’s phone, it was clear he was encouraging another person to commit an act of terrorism and innocent lives were going to be in danger. A swift investigation was launched and we, alongside the relevant authorities in the UK and Australia, acted quickly.

From the early communication we could read, it was obvious the Anzac Day memorial service was going to be a target. However, we did not know the specifics due to the messaging service he used contained an encryption code. If officers from the hi-tech unit of the NWCTU had not been able to develop a bespoke program to read the boy’s messages, it is likely someone would have been seriously injured or killed.
The chains of events are clearly disturbing and residents will be shocked that such activity can take place behind closed doors. However, while these investigations took place, there was no suggestion the boy was looking to target his local community or those in the UK.
People will be understandably be shocked by the age of the boy however this should not detract from the horror of what he was planning. It is also a clear message that you will face prosecution, no matter how old you are.

“I want to reiterate that it is everybody’s responsibility to tackle extremism and radicalisation. It is vital communities and families contact us and bring to our attention anyone they perceive may be vulnerable or in danger of escalating towards terrorism.”

Anyone with information has been urged to contact the UK Anti-Terrorist Hotline on 0800 789 321.

Read: 14-year-old boy arrested over ‘credible terrorist threat’

Read: Five teenagers arrested over ‘ISIS-inspired terror plot’

About the author:

Órla Ryan

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