A couple who met on a lonely hearts website have been found guilty of plotting “devastating” carnage over Christmas with an Islamic State-inspired bomb or ricin attack.
Sudanese asylum seeker Munir Mohammed volunteered for a “lone wolf” UK mission as he chatted on Facebook with a man he believed was an IS commander.
He enlisted the help of pharmacist Rowaida El-Hassan, drawing on her knowledge of chemicals needed to make a bomb after seeking her out on SingleMuslim.com.
At the time of his arrest in December 2016, Mohammed had two of the three components for TATP explosives as well as manuals on how to make explosives, mobile phone detonators, and deadly ricin poison.
Would-be bomber Munir Mohammed on a trip to his local Asda where he bought the wrong type of nail varnish remover to make explosives (Counter Terrorism Policing North/PA)
Mohammed, 36, of Leopold Street, Derby, and El-Hassan, 33, of Willesden Lane, north-west London, denied preparing terrorist acts between November 2015 and December 2016.
But following an Old Bailey trial, a jury found the pair guilty of the plot.
Judge Michael Topolski QC remanded the pair in custody and warned them they faced jail when they are sentenced on February 22.
Following the verdicts, he said: “Munir Mohammed, you have been convicted of planning a potentially devastating terrorist attack by creating an explosive device and deploying it somewhere in the UK targeting those you regarded as enemies of the Islamic State.
“Rowaida El-Hassan, you share the extremist mindset with Munir Mohammed and you were ideologically motivated to provide him with support, motivation and assistance.
“You knew he was engaging and planning an attack. You knew he was planning an explosion to kill and maim innocent people in the cause of Islamic State.”
Mohammed was unanimously convicted and his co-accused by a majority of 10 to one jurors.
An Advent Notebook found in the home of Munir Mohammed (Counter Terrorism Policing North/PA)
Mohammed arrived in Britain in the back of a lorry and claimed asylum in February 2014, the court heard.
After being left hanging for more than two years, he appealed to Derby MP Margaret Beckett for help with his immigration problems.
The long-serving Labour MP was informed by authorities that his case was “not straightforward” and had been referred to a “specialist unit for consideration”.
Meanwhile, Mohammed was working at a Kerry Foods in Derby making sauces for supermarket ready meals and wooing a potential British bride he met online.
The prosecution claimed he was drawn to University College London graduate El-Hassan because she referred to having a Master’s degree in pharmacy in her dating profile.
She wrote that she was “looking for a simple, very simple, honest and straightforward man who fears Allah” who she could “vibe with on a spiritual and intellectual level”.
Jurors were told the pair had a “rapidly formed emotional attachment and a shared ideology” and by the spring of 2016 were in regular contact on WhatsApp and had met more than once in a London park near El-Hassan’s home.
As well as arguments, jokes and everyday concerns, they also shared extremist views and videos.
Prosecutor Anne Whyte QC said Mohammed “resolved upon a lone wolf attack” and El-Hassan was well aware of his plan.
Hydrogen peroxide found in the home of Munir Mohammed (Counter Terrorism Policing North/PA)
In August 2016, Mohammed was put in touch via Facebook with a man he believed was an IS commander, known as Abubakr Kurdi.
He pledged allegiance to Kurdi and offered to participate in “a new job in the UK”, said to mean an act of terrorism, jurors heard.
In September 2016, Mohammed complained he had not received his instructions, saying in coded language: “If possible send how we make dough (explosives) for Syrian bread (a bomb) and other types of food.”
Mother-of-two El-Hassan advised fellow divorcee Mohammed on what chemicals to buy for a bomb, jurors were told.
In November 2016, Mohammed got hold of a video containing information on how to manufacture ricin, the court heard.
In the days before his arrest, Mohammed was captured on in-store CCTV buying “acetone free” nail polish from Asda, in the mistaken belief it was a chemical component of TATP.
He also looked at pressure cookers at Ace Discounts, which the prosecution said could be used to contain the explosives.
Munir Mohammed visiting Ace Discounts in Derby (Counter Terrorism Policing North/PA)
When police raided his home on December 12 2016, they found hydrogen peroxide in a wardrobe and hydrochloric acid in the freezer.
Mohammed denied the chemicals were for a bomb, claiming the hydrochloric acid was to clean the alloys on his car and the peroxide was to treat a burn.
He told jurors he sent El-Hassan extremist videos “mainly for the news” and claimed his intention was “to marry her”.
However, the court also heard he had an arranged marriage in Sudan with a woman he had never met called Fatima who he was hoping to bring to England on a student visa.
El-Hassan, who came to Britain from Sudan at the age of three, told jurors she had sulphuric acid for her drains and got face masks to wear as she dealt with a damp problem in her flat.
Asked if she had feelings for Mohammed, she said: “It was mixed feelings at the time. Yes, there was emotional attachment.
“There were feelings developing and we were getting to know each other. I was grateful for things he helped me with. And he was grateful for things I helped him with. I liked the attention he was giving me.”
Sue Hemming, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “Munir Mohammed and Rowaida El-Hassan were clearly attracted to each other through their support for Daesh’s violent ideology and its intolerance of those who do not subscribe to its views.
“They planned to kill and injure innocent people in the UK and had the mindset, the methodology and almost all the material needed for Mohammed to carry out an attack.
“Both will be in prison, where they cannot plot together and will no longer be a danger to the public.”