Runa Khan, 'Extremist' Luton Mother, Jailed For Promoting Terrorism On Facebook

An "extremist" mother-of-six who took pictures of her toddler son holding a toy gun and daydreamed about sending his eight-year-old brother to fight jihad when he grows up has been jailed for five years and three months for promoting terrorism on Facebook.

Runa Khan revealed her radical views on the social network, encouraging fellow Muslim women to urge their male relatives to fight and posting picture of a suicide vest. She also praised an article giving tips on how to prepare young children for jihad and unwittingly passed a route to Syria to an undercover police officer.

Runa Khan leaving Kingston Crown Court in Surrey

Khan appeared to glorify the murder of Lee Rigby, while she repeatedly spoke of her desperation to travel to the war-torn country in messages on WhatsApp. When she was arrested police found a photo of her two-year-old son with a toy assault rifle and a jihadist book on her phone, as well as images of her and her older children holding a sword, Kingston Crown Court heard.

The 35-year-old, from Luton, admitted four charges of disseminating terrorist publications between July and September 2013.

In one Facebook post Khan described how when she was getting her eight-year-old son ready to go outside to play, she pictured handing him a rifle in the future and sending him out to "play the big boy's game". Khan suggested in messages to a man fighting in Syria that she was planning to "come with my little boy", the court heard.

Sentencing Khan, Judge Peter Birts QC described her as an "avowed fundamentalist Islamist holding radical and extreme beliefs". He said: "You hold to an ideology which espouses jihad as an essential part of the Islamist obligation. I sentence you not for your beliefs, abhorrent though they are to all civilised people, but for your actions in disseminating terrorist material with the clear intention of radicalising others."

Referring to her online activities, he said: "Your purpose was to encourage and promote your particular brand of violent fundamentalism. You were deeply committed to radicalising others, including very young children, into violent jihadist extremism.

The judge added: "You appear to have no insight into the effect of radicalising your children, having selfishly placed your own ideology and beliefs above their welfare in your priorities." Paul Jarvis, prosecuting, said Khan's online activities revealed her "extreme Islamist views" and her desire to travel to Syria herself.

Between April and October last year Khan exchanged a string of messages on WhatsApp with Mohammed Nahin Ahmed, who was jailed after he admitted fighting in Syria alongside an al Qaida-linked terrorist group. During their discussions Khan asked Ahmed about the possibility that he might be able to "find her a husband from among the ranks of those fighting Jihad", Mr Jarvis said.

In September last year she wrote: "Trying to clear debt n join u...I'm gonna come with my little boy." In their final conversation in October 2013, Khan wrote:"I would love to come." Khan used a Facebook account in the name of "Khawla Khattab" but her activities on the site were revealed after she passed the details of a route to Syria sent to her by Ahmed to an undercover officer, which formed the basis of one charge against her.

The investigator gained access to the Facebook posts that were only visible to Khan's 241 friends and the three remaining counts were based on material she posted. On July 30 she posted an image of a suicide vest emblazoned with the words "sacrificing your life to benefit Islam".

In September she wrote: "Dear Sisters, if you love your sons your husbands your brothers prove it by sending them to fight for the sake of Allah. Don't you want them to enter jannah (paradise) without reckoning? Don't you want them to prepare for you a palace in jannah?"

On the same day she reposted an article written by another user, which set out a detailed blueprint for "Raising Mujahid Children". Khan said: "Sisters this is excellent." The document included suggestions that even very young children should be trained for jihad, the court heard.

Referring to the article, Mr Jarvis said: "Mothers are enjoined to introduce their young children to target shooting, albeit not with real weapons." It recommended getting children as young as two "interested in Jihad" using books, CDs and the internet and added: "Don't underestimate the lasting effects of what those little ears ... take in during the first years of life! No child is ever too young to be started off on jihad training in one form or another."

It said mothers should warn their children "only to get their anger out on the enemies of Allah... Make a makeshift enemy (could be a punch bag for instance) if you have to, and encourage children (especially boys) to use it..." Another passage said: "If young children can learn the names of all the Pokemon characters, surely they can learn some basic terminology related to Jihad."

The court also heard details of other social media activities illustrating Khan's extremist views. On the day after Lee Rigby was murdered near Woolwich Barracks in May last year, she changed her profile picture to an image of what appeared to be a soldier carrying a dead or injured comrade with the caption Hell For Heroes.

She also shared a post by another user which complained about Muslims who condemned the killing. On 24 September last year she wrote: "Zipping up my eight-year-old boy's jacket as he wants to play outside for a bit. I pictured the future while I was zipping up his jacket, in sha Allah I'll be tying the shahada bandana round his forehead and hand him his rifle and send him out to play the big boy's game."

In another she said: "Your enemy can be someone you see everyday, someone you talk, walk and eat with everyday. So be careful." Police raided her home on October 16 last year and seized her iPhone. It contained several photographs including:

  • A picture of her two-year-old son wearing a turban and holding a toy assault rifle.
  • A picture of the two-year-old holding a copy of a Jihadist book
  • Pictures of her nine-year-old and teenage sons holding a sword.
  • Pictures of Khan holding a toy assault rifle and brandishing a sword.

When she was arrested, Khan told police she was only interested in going to Syria for "humanitarian purposes". She denied there was anything sinister about the photographs on her iPhone, claiming that in Israel people gave their children "real weapons".

Khan denied being any threat to the UK and insisted she disapproved of the murder of Lee Rigby. When an officer suggested to her that she must have known her Facebook activities would encourage others to join violent jihadist activities, she replied: "It's because of the Koran, isn't it? This is what the Koran says, please read the Koran. I'll see you next time in a turban and a big beard."

Khan, who appeared in the dock wearing a niqab with only her eyes visible, was given a police caution in July for assault. When she was arrested over that incident, the court heard she told police: "I will blow you up." Jo Sidhu QC said in mitigation that Khan was "obsessed" with the situation in Syria but did not advocate a "global jihad".

He said she recognises that she has done "offends English law" and "makes no excuse for her behaviour". Mr Sidhu said she has "inflexible religious sensibilities", adding: "We are dealing with someone whose thinking is deeply immature."

Commander Richard Walton, head of the Metropolitan Police's SO15 Counter Terrorism Command, said: "This is a case of social media being used as a tool for terrorism. Khan used it to spread extremism, radicalise others and justify children being used for terrorism".

Khan told BBC's Newsnight that Britain was "the last place I would want to live in". Asked if there was anything she regretted, she said: "We've moved on haven't we. I'm 35 now. So I can't look back. If I kept looking back into my past life, I'd never be able to move forward. My kids are going to have a normal life, in fact they are going to have a better life, you know because I'm not around my sister is going to cut down on her work hours, she is going to spend time with them, my mum is going to spend more time with them.

"If we could we wouldn't live in Britain. My passport has been taken away from me, Britain is the last place I would want to live in and I'm sure that you know the majority of people with my mindset are actually behind bars because they don't want to stay in Britain."

She said she does not know how many women there are like her. "But as far as I'm concerned all the Muslim women, all the women should be how I am." She said that when she talks about jihad she does not mean killing innocent people, but people who are a threat to her religion.

She added: "I have always said I don't believe in going and blowing myself up in a shopping centre where there are going to be innocent children. And when I spoke about suicide missions, I only spoke about it because it's a much feared war tactic, which should only be used in a battlefield, not anywhere else."

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