Man jailed for planting extremist material in mosques
A 24-year-old man from Derbyshire has been jailed for depositing violent footage and propaganda at various mosques across the country.
Three USB drives containing imagery and words promoting and encouraging terrorism were found in the shoes of people attending a mosque in Leicestershire in June 2018, before similar incidents happened at two mosques in Bedfordshire, in which four USB drives in total were found. Five drives were also discovered at a mosque in the West Midlands.
On 4 June another three devices were found at a Derbyshire mosque. A further stick was discovered at another mosque in the West Midlands a few days later.
Following several enquiries, the East Midlands Special Operations Unit perused CCTV footage from a number of the scenes, which revealed 24-year-old Omar Ashfaq placing the sticks into shoes left in the foyer while their owners prayed inside.
A search of his home and vehicle revealed numerous bags of USB sticks as well as notes outlining further plans.
Ashfaq was charged with three counts of possessing material of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism (Section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000), and eight counts of disseminating terrorist publications (Section 2 of the Terrorism Act 2006). He subsequently pleaded guilty to the possession offences but continued to deny disseminating the material — claiming he was merely attempting to highlight extremist material available online to Imams so that they could report it to the police.
Donna Sisson, head of Derbyshire Special Branch, said: “Had we not arrested Omar Ashfaq when we did I fully believe he would have continued with his ‘operation’ to plant up to 250 digital devices at sites up and down the country. The USB sticks he managed to deposit contained footage of unspeakable brutality and promoted an extreme ideology that has absolutely no place in our communities.
“In some cases these USB sticks were found by children. A small consolation is that they never got see the horrors contained on them. I’d like to extend my thanks to those conscientious and diligent members of our communities — who are entitled to practise their faith in peace and without incident such as this — for calling the police. Your actions stopped a man, intent on spreading harmful messages, in his tracks.”