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Tweeting couple convicted of preparing London attack

London: A British couple were convicted on Tuesday of plotting an attack in London after the husband sent out tweets asking for advice on which targets he should hit, alerting police to a stockpile of chemicals at their home.

Mohammed Rehman, 25, and Sana Ahmed Khan, 24, were found guilty by a jury at the Central Criminal Court of engaging in the preparation of terrorist acts, with a view to hitting either a large shopping centre in the capital or the London Underground.

Mohammed Rehman and his wife, Sana Ahmed Khan, were interested in helping Islamic State extremists by planning a ...
Mohammed Rehman and his wife, Sana Ahmed Khan, were interested in helping Islamic State extremists by planning a large-scale bombing of civilian targets in London. Photo: Thames Valley Police

"Westfield shopping centre or London Underground? Any advice would be appreciated greatly," Rehman said on Twitter, under the name "Silent Bomber".

The couple, who denied the charges, are to be sentenced at a later date.

The bus destroyed by a bomb in London on July 7, 2005.
The bus destroyed by a bomb in London on July 7, 2005.  Photo: AP

The British prosecutor said on Tuesday the two Britons had carried out detailed research into terrorist attacks, including searching the internet for videos related to the London transport bombings which killed 52 people a decade ago.

Those attacks were carried out on July 7, 2005, when four young British Muslims travelled from northern England to the capital to detonate home-made bombs hidden in rucksacks on three Underground trains and a bus during the morning rush hour.

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British media reports said Rehman and Ahmed Khan had planned to carry out an attack to coincide with the 10th anniversary of those bombings.

Rehman, who was also found guilty of possessing an article for terrorist purposes, had carried out bomb tests in his garden which he filmed and sent to his wife, and she had also helped to buy the chemicals, the prosecutor said.

Police at Russell Square underground station, London, on the day it reopened after the July 7, 2005 attacks.
Police at Russell Square underground station, London, on the day it reopened after the July 7, 2005 attacks.  Photo: AP

"The pair had been very close to carrying out an attack, all they required was to purchase the chemicals to make a detonator," said Susan Hemming, head of the counter-terrorism division at the Crown Prosecution Service.

She added that the couple had already acquired 10 kilograms of urea nitrate. "There is little doubt that, had Rehman and Ahmed Khan not been stopped when they were, they would have attempted to carry out an act of terrorism in London."

Front pages of Britain's national newspapers the day after the attacks of July 7, 2005.
Front pages of Britain's national newspapers the day after the attacks of July 7, 2005. Photo: AP

Britain is on its second-highest alert level of "severe", meaning an attack by militants is considered highly likely. The designation remained the same after the November 13 Islamist attacks in Paris which killed 130 people.

The verdict came as two people were arrested in Belgium suspected of plotting an attack in Brussels on New Year's Eve.

Police found military clothing and IS propaganda material but no weapons or explosives, prosecutors said.

"Our investigation revealed serious threats of an attack on symbolic places in Brussels during the celebrations for New Year's Eve,"  prosecutors said in a statement.

A total of six people had been taken in for questioning during house searches in Brussels, a neighbouring province and Liege, but four of them had since been released, the prosecutors added.

Two of the November 13 Paris suicide bombers, Brahim Abdeslam and Bilal Hadfi, had been living in Belgium.

Belgian police have arrested nine people in connection with the Paris attacks. But the prosecutors said Tuesday's announcement was not linked to that investigation.

A spokesman for the US-led military campaign against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria said that individuals linked to November's attacks in Paris had been killed by air strikes.

One of those killed was Abdul Qader Hakim, who facilitated the militants' external operations and had links to the Paris attack network, US Army Colonel Steve Warren said. He was killed in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on December 26.

A coalition air strike on December 24 in Syria allegedly killed Charaffe al-Mouadan, a Syria-based IS member with a direct link to Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected ringleader of the November 13 attacks, Colonel Warren said.

Reuters

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