Woman in dock for alleged IS suicide bomb plot targeting London cathedral
World / 17 October 2019, 10:44am / REBECCA CAMBER CHIEF CRIME CORRESPONDENT
London - An alleged female Islamic State supporter plotted a suicide bomb attack on St Paul’s Cathedral in a bid to kill as many people as possible, a court heard on Wednesday.
Safiyya Amira Shaikh, 36, is accused of planning multiple attacks in the capital on the cathedral and a London hotel.
She is the first woman in the UK to be charged with plotting a suicide bombing in this country.
She appeared in court for the first time yesterday after being charged with terrorism.
The former company director is alleged to have travelled into the city and visited St Paul’s to ‘scope its security’ and find the best place to detonate a bomb to kill scores of tourists and worshippers.
She ‘intended to kill herself and as many other people as possible’, Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard.
Shaikh, from Hayes, west London, is said to have stayed at a hotel as part of her reconnaissance mission, where she noted its ‘suitability as a target for a bomb’.
But she was arrested following an undercover sting operation led by police and security services before the alleged plot could be carried out.
According to prosecutors, she made contact with an ‘explosives expert’ providing two bags in which she planned to carry the devices. Over two months, she is said to have outlined her plans to the man she met online and his wife, whom she allegedly met to hand over the bags, not realising that the couple were undercover officers.
In preparation for the alleged attack, Shaikh is said to have pledged an oath of allegiance to Islamic State. On Wednesday she was charged with plotting acts of terror between August 19 and October 10 this year, specifically making contact ‘with a person she believed to be able to assist in preparing explosives’.
The court was also told on Wednesday that Shaikh shared terrorist documents via groups using the Telegram messaging app and other channels which were ‘under her control’ – although she used a false name and posed as a man.
For two months, she is accused of being a ‘leading operator/administrator of at least one media channel’ within the messaging app which praised the terror group and allegedly encouraged terrorism including the killing of civilians.
It is claimed she posed as a man while running the ‘Greenb1rds’ channel, which is known to have published terrorist threats to specific locations and individuals in America and Europe. She has also been charged with circulating pro-terrorist documents created by others. It is said the Telegram channels were run with a high degree of secrecy, with Shaikh keeping a ‘banned list’ of those suspected to be spies and using fake emails.
Prosecutors say Shaikh was driven by her belief in terrorism in the name of Islamic State.
She has been charged under section 2 of the Terrorism Act 2006, acting as ‘a direct or indirect encouragement or other inducement, or would be the provision of assistance, to the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.’
Counter-terrorism officers arrested her in north-west London on October 10. She was held in detention for several days and charged yesterday.
She did not enter a plea at the hearing and was remanded into custody to appear at the Old Bailey on November 1.