A man from east London dubbed the Masked Menace has been jailed for at least 19 years for plotting a terror attack during the coronavirus lockdown. Sahayb Abu, 27, bought an 18-inch sword, a knife, balaclavas and body armour online as he prepared to strike last summer.
He was arrested in July after discussing guns with an undercover police officer, who he met on a Telegram chat group for supporters of the Islamic State group.
A jury found Abu guilty (last month) of plotting terrorist acts after deliberating for more than 21 hours. His brother Muhamed Abu, 32, of Norwood, south London, was cleared of failing to tell authorities about the plot. The trial heard that several of Abu’s relatives had been linked to extremism in the past.
Sahayb Abu came face-to-face with known terrorists while serving a sentence for burglary at Wandsworth prison in south London. On his release on March 20 last year, he went from being “locked up to locked down” as the Covid-19 pandemic struck, jurors heard. He spent his £400 monthly benefits on two balaclavas, body armour, gloves, a camouflage hat and two blades, including an 18-inch sword, paying extra to get it sharpened.
In a disturbing rap, he described London mayor Sadiq Khan as a “sell-out” and talked about murdered soldier Lee Rigby.
Jurors watched footage of him dressed in a balaclava, rapping: ‘Fam don’t chat to me about no Gandhi Islam or Sufi Islam, I’m trying to see many Lee Rigbys heads rolling on the ground. ‘Man shoot up a crowd cause I’m a night stalker, got my shank got my gun… I won’t rest til my shank penetrate ya, got my suicide vest, one click boom and I’ll see ya later.’
He also posted extremist comments online and came to the attention of an undercover officer known as Rachid in an exclusive IS supporters’ encrypted chat group on Telegram.
On his arrest, police uncovered a black IS flag in the flat where Sahayb Abu was staying.
In his defence, he denied buying the sword and combat gear for a terror attack. He dismissed extremist posts as “trolling” and claimed he joined the Telegram group to attract women with his “bravado”.
The extremist from Dagenham, east London, claimed he wanted to become a successful rapper like Stormzy, who wore a stab vest on stage at Glastonbury.
His lawyer Michael Ivers QC said the personas – “merciless troll”, “Jihadi fan boy” and “wannabe drill rapper” – all betrayed a desperate desire to be accepted.
Jailing him for life with a minimum of 19 years, Judge Mark Dennis said: ‘You of all people having seen what befell two of your younger brothers when they joined up to the Islamic State cause. . . To this date you have yet to express any remorse for your actions.”
The judge said he was satisfied that Abu had everything he needed for a “lone wolf” attack and would have carried it out but for the intervention of police. He added: “All that remained for him to decide was the time and place for him to carry out the act of violence in furtherance of the cause he supported.”
Dressed in a blue jacket, white T-shirt and dark trousers, Abu said ‘thank you, your Honour’ as he was led down to the cells. The court heard how he had no previous terror-related convictions but was caught drug dealing in France and having a knife.