Man jailed for 15 years over remote-controlled vehicle bomb plot

A dangerous extremist who planned a potentially deadly terror attack using a bomb inside a remotely-controlled vehicle has been jailed for 15 years.

Farhad Salah, an Iraqi-Kurd asylum seeker, was in the early stages of testing small improvised explosive devices when he was arrested in 2017.

The 24-year-old had “become wedded to an extremist ideology” and hoped to harm others he considered to be infidels, Sheffield Crown Court heard.

During the five-week retrial, jurors heard that Salah intended to make a device that would be placed in a remote-controlled vehicle so that no-one had to martyr themselves in the process.

A week before his arrest in December 2017, he messaged a Facebook contact to say: “My only attempt is to find a way to carry out martyrdom operation with cars without driver, everything is perfect only the programme is left.”

Dan Pawson-Pounds, prosecuting, told the court on Wednesday that Salah was an “unapologetic confirmed supporter of Islamic State”.

The trial heard he was getting increasingly desperate to do something for IS at the time of his plotting but was unable to travel to the Middle East due to his unsettled immigration status, with his application for asylum in the UK still being determined.

He was found guilty of preparing to commit acts of terrorism earlier this month.

Judge Paul Watson QC handed Salah a 15-year jail term with an extended three-year licence period on Wednesday.

He told the court that Salah had come to the UK in 2014.

He said: “This country provided you with sanctuary from the oppression which you claim to have suffered before you fled Kurdistan.

“Prior to your arrest, you were living and working in the south Yorkshire area, where to all outward appearances you were living a law-abiding lifestyle.

“The reality was far more sinister.”

Judge Watson said police investigations into Salah’s mobile phone and social media accounts found he was in contact with other extremists and watched violent extremist videos.

He said: “A clear picture emerged. That picture was of someone, you, who had become wedded to an extremist ideology and was preparing to take action to give effect to those views.”

The judge told the court that Salah had researched how to make explosives, obtained parts and made and tested explosives or an IED.

He said that, despite the plans being in their infancy when the defendant was arrested, the planned use of explosives meant any attack could have resulted in multiple deaths.

He told Salah: “Your attitude to extreme violence and loss of life, sometimes in unimaginably horrifying circumstances, indicates clearly to me that you, had you carried your preparations through to conclusion, would have had no hesitation in causing loss of life or the infliction of terrible suffering.

“I have no idea when, if ever, your opposition to liberal democratic society will subside.

“While ever it does persist, you remain a danger.”

Salah, of Brunswick Road, Sheffield, and his co-defendant Andy Star, faced the retrial after a verdict could not be reached in the first trial last year.

The judge recorded a not guilty verdict for 32-year-old Mr Star after the jury again failed to reach a verdict.

Fireworks enthusiast Mr Star, a chip shop owner from Chesterfield, was accused of testing devices with Salah.

Speaking after the guilty verdict earlier this month, Detective Chief Superintendent Martin Snowden, head of Counter Terrorism Policing North East, said Salah’s aim of using a driverless car had been “aspirational”.

He said: “Salah clearly had an extremist mindset and communication from him indicates that he saw his situation as critical. He claimed he was a terrorist, who would be judged by God.”

Bearded Salah, who sat in the dock wearing a navy blue polo shirt with three dock officers and an interpreter, showed no emotion as he was sentenced.