Would-be jihadi bride jailed for helping man travel to Syria


A would-be jihadi bride has been jailed for 15 months for helping a man she had never met to travel to Syria after striking up an online romance with him.

In a series of Skype chats, Angela Shafiq, 22, advised Mohammed Nahin Ahmed, from Birmingham, about travel documents and how to get past border controls before he left to join rebels in the war-torn country.

In May 2013, Ahmed and his friend Yusuf Sarwar travelled from the UK to Syria, via Turkey, in order to join the ranks of Islamist rebels fighting the Assad regime.

The pair were arrested on their return in January last year and later pleaded guilty to an offence of preparation of terrorist acts, the court heard.

Shafiq denied committing the same offence between January 1 2013 and May 16 2013, saying her chats with Ahmed - a man she never met - were all "fantasy".

But the jury at the Old Bailey found Shafiq, from Hounslow, in Middlesex, guilty after deliberating for less than a day.

Sentencing her Judge Stephen Kramer QC said: "You are an intelligent young woman who I am satisfied was not as naive and unworldly as you portrayed yourself to be in evidence during the trial.

"I am satisfied that you knew full well what you were saying and doing."

He added: "What you did was sustained over months, deliberate and intense."

The judge also said that Shafiq had expressed "fervent" support for what Ahmed was travelling to Syria to do.

In mitigation, Richard Thomas told the court Shafiq battled with self-esteem issues and had concerns about her weight, excess hair and acne.

Reading from medical records, he said: "There are references throughout to her self esteem, her has excess hair and acne.

"There are a number of references to self esteem and a number of references to stress-related anxiety and agoraphobia."

Mr Thomas had submitted that Shafiq be given a suspended sentence for her "relatively low level terrorism offending", but the judge ruled that only an immediate custodial sentence was suitable.

In the five months before Ahmed left, he had numerous Skype exchanges with Shafiq under the user name Neon Salam.

Trial prosecutor Christopher Hehir QC told the jury: "Although as I have said the two of them never met, the conversations between Angela Shafiq and Nahin Ahmed were quite intense at times.

"They discussed the possibility of marriage, and of Angela Shafiq herself travelling to Syria.

"A continuing issue in the conversations was the fact that Angela Shafiq's mother, quite understandably you may think, would not allow her to go to Syria."

In January 2013, Ahmed told her he wanted to be a "mujahid" or warrior and Shafiq replied that she prayed "Allah gives you the pleasure of being shaheed (martyr)".

The following day, she expressed a wish he would come back for her so they could go to Syria together and he responded: "Lol I'll prbly be deaddddd I cant cme bk ill get arrested Guaranteed Dats y. I talked to a Swedish brudaa who went syriaa. He said da battles get addictive (sic)."

When she spoke of going to Birmingham to see him, Ahmed put her off. He went on to tell her of his plan to go to Syria via Turkey with a friend who he said he was training because he was "a bit chubby" - in reference to Sarwar.

Shafiq was accused of helping Ahmed by giving him advice on renewing his passport and suggesting he do a first aid course - "like in case u get stopped at borders u can show that certificate nd say ur going there to help the ppl."

The chats tailed off in February 2013 after Ahmed told Shafiq he had received a message from an alternative jihadi bride who wanted to go to Syria.

Three months later, Ahmed tried to contact her as he was about to fly to Turkey, saying he had phoned her twice from his hotel in Heathrow but got no answer.

The next day, she sent him a lengthy reply begging his forgiveness, saying that she was "crying a lot" and "didn't want my emotions to hit you".

In her defence, Shafiq told jurors that she did not believe Ahmed when he told her about his plan to go to Syria, saying that he used LOL - text speak for laughing out loud - a lot in his messages which made her question whether he was serious.

She said she had no idea when he asked her for a donation for his "AK" that meant an AK47 rifle and she thought he talked about being a soldier as a slang term to sound "hard".

On their talk about marriage, she said: "I liked the topic of marriage. I wanted to fantasise about someone wanting me. I didn't feel like in real life anyone wanted to marry me."