Two British men who traveled to Syria to join the fight against the Assad regime armed with copies of “Arabic for Dummies” and the “Koran for Dummies” face record jail sentences of almost 18 years after pleading guilty to terrorist offenses.
Yusuf Sarwar and Mohammed Ahmed, both 22, can be released for the last five years of the term under extended bail, intended to “punish, deter and incapacitate” them, Judge Michael Topolski said as he delivered the heaviest punishment to date for Syrian related-offenses.
The pair, from Birmingham, bought the two reference books before traveling to the war-torn country in 2012. Sarwar’s mother found a letter in her son’s room saying he wanted to die as a martyr and reported him to anti-terrorist police.
The six page letter showed that “without any doubt” they intended to be “martyred on the battlefields of Syria,” said Topolski. The defendants are considering an appeal, according to their lawyers.
London police have arrested 215 people accused of a range of terrorist offenses so far this year. The U.K. has been under a “severe” terrorist threat since August as law enforcement officials struggle to grapple with radicalized individuals at home and abroad.
The men were arrested with memory cards containing thousands of photographs from Syria showing them holding weapons in combat zones. They had balaclavas, binoculars and a video file explaining how to make a bomb.
“They willingly, enthusiastically and with a great deal of purpose, persistence and determination embarked on a course intended to commit acts of terrorism,” Topolski said. “Both of these defendants are fundamentalists who are interested in and deeply committed to violent extremism.”
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