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Three jihadi gang members released onto English streets


Three members of a terror gang who plotted to blow up a Territorial Army base with a bomb in a toy car have been quietly released from jail.

Umar Arshad, Syed Farhan Hussain and Mohammed Sharfaraz Ahmed, the co-ringleader of the plan - were once labelled 'particularly dangerous' by a judge.

The trio got between five years and extended terms of 16 years and three months, including 11 years in jail, in 2013, but were all back on the streets by November last year.

The final member of the jihadi gang, fanatic Zahid Iqbal, the second leader of the al-Qaeda inspired plot, will finish his jail sentence early next year.

Then aged 31, he also got an extended term of 16 years and three months, including 11 years in jail. The Parole Board have confirmed that Iqbal had not been referred to them.

Normally, under parole rules, Iqbal would be eligible for release after serving two-thirds of his sentence if the Parole Board agrees he is no longer a danger to society.

It is not known why Iqbal has not been referred to the Parole Board.

The Ministry of Justice said that Iqbal, who like his fellow terrorists was from Luton, was still in prison.

In March 2013, at Woolwich Crown Court, the four men admitted one count of engaging in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism between January 1, 2011 and April 25, 2012 at a hearing on March 1.

Sentencing the men, Mr Justice Wilkie QC said in April 2013 that Iqbal and Ahmed, then 25, posed a continuing risk to the public.

Their extended sentence of 11 years in jail and an additional five years on licence after release reflected their key roles in the plot.

The terms of their sentences mean they could be recalled to prison anytime during their five years on licence.

The judge said: 'In each of their cases, their persistent commitment to terrorist activity, in a number of different ways, over a significant period of time and, in each case, their willingness to take practical steps to obtain terrorist training abroad, marks them out as particularly dangerous.

'This, coupled with the fact that, after their houses had been searched, and they were obviously under serious suspicion, they nonetheless continued to access material consistent with the mindset which informed their previous preparatory activities, persuades me that they continue to be 'dangerous' to such a degree that I should exercise my discretion to pass an extended sentence.

The four men were arrested in April 2012 and the court heard that they had arranged terrorism training in Pakistan, debated obtaining weapons and how best to raise funds for their plans. Their conversations were secretly recorded in a joint police-MI5 operation.

In one of the secretly-recorded conversations which was played to the court, Iqbal, the group's co-leader, can be heard telling Ahmed: 'I was looking and drove past like the TA centre, Marsh Road. At the bottom of their gate there's quite a big gap. If you had a little toy car it drives underneath one of their vehicles or something.'

In another recording, the men discussed how to make a homemade bomb, based on instructions available in an English-language jihadist magazine.

As the tapes were played in court, the four men had sat smiling and giggling in the dock.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stuart Osborne of the Metropolitan Police's Counter Terrorism Command said: 'The actions and intentions of these men starkly demonstrate what we have repeatedly said - that terrorists live among us while they carry out their plans, doing all they can to conceal their activities.

'We need the help of all our communities to come forward with information about such behaviour or activity so that we can arrest and charge individuals who have violent, extremist views and pose a danger to the public.

'The men had prepared for a terrorism training camp hidden in the mountains of Pakistan by joining physical training exercises in Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons.

Hussain, aged 21 in 2013, was automatically released after serving his sentence. Ahmed was directed for release after a parole hearing in December 2021 and Arshad, 24, after a parole appeal in November 2022.

The Ministry of Justice confirmed that all three men had been released.

A spokesperson for the Parole Board said: 'We can confirm that a panel of the Parole Board has directed the release of Mohammed Sharfaraz Ahmed following an oral hearing.

'Parole Board decisions are solely focused on what risk a prisoner could represent to the public if released and whether that risk is manageable in the community.'

The spokesperson added: 'We can confirm that a panel of the Parole Board has directed the release of Umar Arshad following an oral hearing.'