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Suicide bomber of St. Paul's Cathedral, detained for 14 years


This is the frightening moment when the UK's first suicide bomber tells the police during an interview that she is planning a Sri Lankan-style terrorist attack on St. Paul's Cathedral since she has been detained for 14 years.

36-year-old Muslim convert Safiyya Shaikh, wearing a black hijab, smiled and raised her index finger in a greeting that was associated with ISIS when she was brought to the cells.

Shaikh, née Michelle Ramsden of Hounslow, West London, told undercover police that she wanted to "make a piece of history and kill as many kuffar as possible" in one day of the massacre across the capital.

The single mother, who claimed to be a manager in a London garage, ran a martyrs chat room and told her followers about her determination to become Britain's first suicide bomber.

She was addicted to heroin, but said she always wanted to "do something great" and killing an unbeliever was "not enough for me".

After firing the two bombs, she wanted to blow herself up on the London Underground.

Safiyya Shaikh, 36, mother of a child from Hayes, West London, wanted to attack St. Paul & # 39; s Cathedral and a hotel in central London during the Easter celebrations

Shaikh (pictured with the greeting from the Islamic State) had told a friend in a prison call that she had not carried out the terrorist attack because she was "too stoned", the court was told

Shaikh (pictured with the greeting from the Islamic State) had told a friend in a prison visit that she had not carried out the terrorist attack because she was "too stoned", the court was told

Video surveillance by Shaikh in the lobby of the Great St. Helen's Hotel near the Gherkin office building in the City of London on September 7, the night before her investigation

Video surveillance by Shaikh in the lobby of the Great St. Helen's Hotel near the Gherkin office building in the City of London on September 7, the night before her investigation

What does the one-finger gesture mean?

Raising an index finger is often used in Muslims Prayer as a symbol of Tawhid.

Tawhid is that Belief in the unity of God, a central concept of Islam.

The gesture can mean the unity of Allah.

However, the point has also been used by IS members in recent years.

Historian Nathaniel Zelinsky said he could refer to a fundamentalist interpretation of Tawhid that rejects other views.

Shaikh said to an undercover officer, "This is really what I want, but I would like to kill a lot of brother. Until I'm killed. I really want that. Bi & # 39; idnillah (if God allows).

"I'm ready for Jannah (paradise), but I want to do great things insha & # 39; Allah (God willing)."

Shaikh shared pictures of Charles and Diana's wedding at St. Pauls and wrote, “If I had a choice, I would blow up the church. With kuffar in there, ”he added a laughing emoji.

“I want to start planning. I'm serious, ”she added. "It's not just words akhi (brother), I want action and revenge deep out of my heart."

Shaikh was inspired by the Sri Lankan bombings last Easter that killed 259 people last year and wanted to go on strike when the cathedral was full.

Shaikh, whose parents are no longer together, has a brother and sister and a half-brother.

Alison Morgan QC, prosecutor, described her as a "violent extremist" who pledged to support ISIS in a written oath on pink stationery.

Shaikh "gave the impression that she was actually desperate to launch an attack," said Ms. Morgan.

The judge, Mr. Justice Sweeney, imprisoned her for at least 14 years, saying that she had tried to encourage attacks by individual wolves and was "determined to carry out her own terrorist acts in this country."

Pictured: Shaikh's pink & # 39; girly & # 39; backpack, which should be filled with explosives before her attack

Pictured: Shaikh's pink & # 39; girly & # 39; backpack, which should be filled with explosives before her attack

Shaikh during a police interview talking about the detonation of a bomb. It was inspired by the Sri Lankan bombings on Easter Day last year that killed 259 people

Shaikh during a police interview talking about the detonation of a bomb. It was inspired by the Sri Lankan bombings on Easter Day last year that killed 259 people

Old Bailey was told how Shaikh (right in Islamic clothing) radicalized in 2015 after converting to Islam in 2007 after an act of kindness from a neighboring Muslim family

Old Bailey was told how Shaikh (right in Islamic clothing) radicalized in 2015 after converting to Islam in 2007 after an act of kindness from a neighboring Muslim family

The woman pleaded guilty to having planned the bombing of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London (file picture)

The woman pleaded guilty to having planned the bombing of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London (file picture)

The judge simultaneously locked her up for another eight years for running the chat room.

Jenny Hopkins, head of the Counter-Terrorism Department of the Crown Prosecutor's Office (CPS), said: “Safiyya Shaikh has chosen to live her life as a violent extremist with a murderous hatred of those who did not share her twisted version of Islam.

She hoped to inspire others by sharing terrorist images on social media, but she wanted to go much further.

How Shaikh was captured by undercover officers

Safiyya Amira Shaikh was captured by undercover officers last year when she planned to set up two explosive devices in central London.

In an encrypted chat with an undercover officer last August, she said that "she'd rather die young and get to Jannah (paradise) as soon as possible".

She also said, "I always know I wanted to do something great … killing a kafir (unbeliever) is not enough for me."

Shaikh expressed a desire to target a church or "historic" place on a day like Christmas or Easter to "kill more," the case summary said.

In September last year, she announced her plan to stay in a hotel near St. Paul, then visit the cathedral and "take photos like a tourist".

On September 24 last year, she met the wife of the counterfeit explosives expert in Uxbridge to hand over her bags.

Then, on October 13, the undercover police canceled a second meeting and the police entered Shaikh's home to arrest her.

"The damned evidence the CPS presented for its planned suicide mission at St. Paul's Cathedral left her no room to talk herself out of the charges."

The court heard how it was radicalized in 2007 and followed extremist preachers on Facebook.

But she was disillusioned with what she saw as the moderate version of Islam preached in mosques and began following and speaking to extremists online in 2015.

She was radicalized by watching online videos of the hate preacher Anjem Choudary and clips of his acolytes on YouTube.

In a joint investigation by Met Police and MI5, Shaikh believed that an undercover officer could help her get the explosives and gave her two bags that she believed would be turned into bombs.

She planned to leave one bomb in St. Paul's Cathedral, another in a nearby hotel, and a third as a suicide vest at a train station.

In a message she said to the undercover officer: "Although it was difficult at first to watch the beheading video, I watched it more and more and now I love it and would take the head off a kuffar (unbeliever), lol (laughs out loud) ).

Previously, she had placed her daughter in the care of social services and told a covert official that she would launch a suicide bombing so Allah could forgive me for everything.

In September 2019, she visited St. Paul's Cathedral, photographed the ceiling and sent the picture to the undercover officer with the words: "I want to put a bomb under this dome".

The undercover officer caused Shaikh to meet his "woman" known as Azra in Fassnidge Park in Uxbridge to equip her for a suicide vest and to hand over a pink Nike travel bag and a so-called "girls backpack" filled with explosives.

After she was arrested, Shaikh claimed that she had cold feet and tried to withdraw from the plan, but in a recorded phone call from prison, she said to a friend, "I would go through this, it was not me. I got cold feet." and had no doubt.

“The reason I didn't show up that day was because I was on drugs. I would have made another appointment with them, I would have met them. I just didn't wake up in time that day and that's the truth. & # 39;

When she was first arrested, the police could not interview Shaikh because she was in a heroin comedown. This was communicated to a court hearing.

On August 18 last year, Shaikh was stopped at Luton Airport on her way to the Netherlands in accordance with Appendix 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

Her ticket had been bought by Yousra Lemouesset, the wife of a so-called ISIS martyr who returned to the Netherlands from Syria after the death of her husband.

Shaikh's phone was examined and her passport was confiscated. She was released but was not allowed to travel.

A text message sent by Shaikh to an undercover officer about her intentions to bomb St. Paul's Cathedral in London with the ceiling and the message, "I want to put a bomb under this dome. It is the center of the church."

A text message sent by Shaikh to an undercover officer about her intentions to bomb St. Paul's Cathedral in London with the ceiling and the message, "I want to put a bomb under this dome. It is the center of the church."

A sketch by a court artist by Shaikh, who was sentenced to life in prison at least 14 years at Old Bailey in London today

A sketch by a court artist by Shaikh, who was sentenced to life in prison at least 14 years at Old Bailey in London today

Two days later, an undercover role-playing officer known as "H" started chatting with her about Threema, an encrypted anonymous messaging app.

Shaikh said to him, "I'm trying to inspire others to fight Insha & Allah (God willing), but I've been falling lately, it's not enough.

I want to take revenge on Allah our Prophet. I hate the kuffar (unbelievers) for what they do and I fell. I cannot live comfortably in this dunya (earthly life) while our ummah (Muslim nation) is suffering. & # 39;

Shaikh believed the man could get explosives for her online and told him that she would conduct a reconnaissance mission around St. Paul's Cathedral.

She said she didn't have her own "Kafir clothes" and had to "take something from my daughter".

"In the event that the police ever stopped me, what story do I tell them? I wanted to say I go to this church because my grandmother loved it, ”she added.

On September 7th last year, Shaikh booked the Great St Helen Hotel near the & # 39; Gerkhin & # 39; in the City of London for £ 200 a night and visited the cathedral the next day, noting the number of American and Chinese tourists.

Video surveillance by Shaikh on the way to a meeting with an undercover officer. She was detained for one-time preparation for terrorist acts and one-time distribution of terrorist publications

Video surveillance by Shaikh on the way to a meeting with an undercover officer. She was detained for one-time preparation for terrorist acts and one-time distribution of terrorist publications

A still image from a video by Shaikh (pictured, circled) conducting a recording at St. Paul & # 39; s Cathedral in London

A still image from a video by Shaikh (pictured, circled) conducting a recording at St. Paul & # 39; s Cathedral in London

She accepted a mission for Matins, noted the exit routes, and sent pictures to the officials suggesting that a bomb should be placed under the dome to tear down the entire building.

The next day, she sent a picture of herself wearing a red niqab and black headband with Arabic script, holding ISIS's one-finger salute.

Raising an index finger is often used by Muslims in prayer as a symbol of Tawhid, the belief in God's unity, but has recently been used by members of IS.

Historian Nathaniel Zelinsky said he could refer to a fundamentalist interpretation of Tawhid that rejects other views.

She wrote: "I got it the other day. I love it. Always wanted to be a warrior, soldier of Allah. I just don't want to waste a second. When I die, I want to do everything I can to the end. & # 39;

When interviewed by the police, Shaikh admitted that she wanted to carry out a suicide bombing like the terrorist attack in Sri Lanka to gain access to heaven.

When asked what she was up to, she said: “If I had the backpack, you would of course know what happened in Sri Lanka. I wanted to do the same thing – blow everything up. & # 39;

She said she wanted to die in the attack and added, “I thought that was my way to heaven. I thought that was my way to forgiveness. & # 39;

Shaikh pleaded guilty to preparing acts of terrorism and distributing terrorist publications, but claimed that she had not implemented the plan.

Shaikh's home in West London. The undercover officer arranged that Shaikh should meet his & # 39; wife & # 39;, known as Azra, at Fassnidge Park in Uxbridge

Shaikh's home in West London. The undercover officer arranged that Shaikh should meet his & # 39; wife & # 39;, known as Azra, at Fassnidge Park in Uxbridge

Timeline of Terror: Shaikh's Journey to Britain's First Suicide Bomber

2007: Michelle Ramsden, a single mother in her early 20s, is friends with a friendly Muslim family. Ramsden is impressed by its warmth and converts to Islam.

2016: Ramsden, now known as Safiyya Shaikh, is referred to the government's strategy to prevent terrorism after he has rejected moderate Islam and has become increasingly extremist. She no longer visits a mosque because her fundamentalist ideology does not fit.

August 18, 2019: Shaikh is stopped at Luton Airport when she tries to get to Amsterdam. Your ticket is bought by Yousra Lemouesset, who was previously convicted of supporting the Islamic State.

20th of August: Shaikh starts chatting with a man through an encrypted messaging app and later believes he can get a bomb and help her become a jihadi. You don't know that the man is a covert cop.

August 22nd: Shaikh confesses to the undercover agent her wish for martyrdom. She says to him: & # 39; So that's really what I want … But I would love to kill a lot of brother. Until I'm killed. I really want that. & # 39;

August 31: She identifies St. Paul's Cathedral as a potential site for the attack, publishes a map and picture of the interior of the cathedral online, and asks the undercover police officer, "Is this possible?"

September 8: Shaikh is conducting a reconnaissance mission in London. She visits St. Paul's Cathedral, where she spends an hour in the landmark taking photos. She describes the prospect of placing a bomb there as "simple".

September 24: A second undercover officer, pretending to be the wife of the man Shaikh believes to be her potential accomplice, travels to Uxbridge in west London to meet with Shaikh and discuss the conspiracy. Shaikh collapses when she talks about her "really terrible way" and says she wants forgiveness from Allah for "everything in my life that I have done". They discuss the equipment for a suicide vest and agree to meet again next month.

October 10th: Shaikh says her second meeting with & # 39; the woman & # 39; on the day they should see each other again and says she feels uncomfortable. The police storm her home and arrest Shaikh. She later tells the police, "I don't know if I ever went through it because I was in doubt."

February 21, 2020: Shaikh pleads guilty to preparing terrorist acts and distributing terrorist publications in Old Bailey.

June: Shaikh's trial begins, in which her lawyer says she had "doubts" about the plan and would never have carried it out. Shaikh reads about her case in the press and calls from the Bronzefield prison, in which she describes the mitigation offered as a "lie" and claims that she wants to carry out the attack.

3rd of July: Mr. Justice Sweeney sentenced Shaikh to life in prison with a minimum sentence of 14 years. Shaikh raises her index finger – a widely recognized greeting from the Islamic State – when she is led by the court.

She cried when her legal representative Ben Newton described her "life full of pain and loneliness" and revealed that she had had a "really traumatic childhood".

"She didn't want to blow up a church," defender Ben Newton told the Old Bailey. "She just wanted friends."

Her lawyer said she had tried to please people in the past and even flown to Pakistan for an arranged marriage against her will before she retired at the last minute and was sent home out of favor.

Discussions with the undercover police revealed that she once asked how much of her body would be destroyed by the detonation of a suicide vest, and also asked about the date of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Commander Richard Smith, head of counter-terrorism at Scotland Yard, said: “Safiyya Shaikh was clearly dangerous. She spread heinous instructions for mass murder around the world and also planned her own terrible attack on British soil.

"I am pleased to say that we were able to identify her plans, assess her intentions, and then provide the evidence of her crime that led to the confession of guilt."

He concluded: & # 39; Shaikh devoted herself to her extremist beliefs. Not only did she want to carry out her own miserable attack on British soil, she also wanted to inspire others to implement plans of attack after her death. Thanks to the hard work of the Met Police and MI5 officials, she is in prison instead.

& # 39; Every day, even during the pandemic, the national anti-terrorist police network continues to fight terrorism. We work with companies and places of worship to protect everyone. I urge the public to help us by reporting anything suspicious to the police. & # 39;

At the same time she was planning the attack, Shaikh ran a "channel" for the encrypted telegram application called GreenB1rds.

The broadcaster distributed extremist propaganda to support ISIS and educational material that encouraged others to attack "lone wolves".

It contained posters that threatened attacks on Tower Bridge – incorrectly referred to as "London Bridge" – and Big Ben, which read: "Know, O Crusader, that Allah wills, you will soon be persecuted in your home country."

Ms. Morgan said Shaikh "personally created some of the images and videos and hired others with the skills necessary to create the material that then circulated them."

The channels were operated with a high level of secrecy and technical application, with the content saved in backups and the channels recreated under various details when Telegram shut them down.

Shaikh kept a "forbidden list" of those suspected of being spies, and even created a false person of himself as a man.

Two weeks before her arrest, Shaikh boasted that she is now operating six "brothers" channels with her own, but added, "Alhamdullilah, it is good and it is an honor to be asked."

Others included channels called Lone Wolves and Jannah is my goal.

Shaikh had 15 "admins" to help run the GreenB1rds channel, seven of which were "totally engaged," she said.

"They will continue my work after they have gone to Allah (God willing)," Shaikh told the undercover officer.

After her arrest, Shaikh told a probation officer that she "felt happier than ever when she ran the chat room."

Speaking of having meaning and no longer feeling empty, she said that any doubt that the attack was being carried out was largely due to the fact that her daughter had returned to her care unexpectedly.

Mr. Sweeney said, "I was wondering if life is needed and I think this is natural, not least because it is impossible to predict whether you will be safe at the end of a certain sentence."

Safiyya Shaikh: The lonely Muslim convert is determined to kill and be killed

An artistic impression of Shaikh in the Old Bailey

An artistic impression of Shaikh in the Old Bailey

All that Safiyya Shaikh, according to her legal representative, had ever wanted was friendship. She also had a long-cherished desire to commit suicide.

When the couple, whom she believed to be like-minded conspirators, were exposed as undercover police officers and had no intention of launching a terrorist attack, the single mother immediately became desperate.

"She didn't want to blow up a church," defender Ben Newton told the Old Bailey. "She just wanted friends."

But the idea that she got "cold feet" about the conspiracy was later denounced by Shaikh herself – under really extraordinary circumstances.

During a recorded phone call to a friend in prison during her four-day trial, Shaikh described claims that she had doubts about the conspiracy as a "lie."

"I wanted to pull it off," she said during a 14-minute call from HMP Bronzefield that the authorities recorded. I didn't get cold feet, I had no doubt. & # 39;

In fact, she said the only reason she retired from meeting her fellow conspirators – the undercover police – was because of her drug habit.

"I would have made another appointment with them," Shaikh said on the phone. & # 39; I would have met her. I just didn't wake up in time and that's the truth. & # 39;

The court recognized that the security-conscious Shaikh knew her phone calls from the prison were being recorded.

Judge Justice Sweeney described the development as "somewhat unusual" and delayed the delivery of the sentence to take account of their open and dissuasive reception.

The full horror of the founding years of the 37-year-old Shaikh was only hinted at in court.

The impression of an artist from Shaikh at Old Bailey on June 22nd. The idea that she got "cold feet" from the plot was later denounced by Shaikh herself - under really exceptional circumstances

The impression of an artist from Shaikh at Old Bailey on June 22nd. The idea that she got "cold feet" from the plot was later denounced by Shaikh herself – under really exceptional circumstances

She cried when Mr. Newton described her "life full of pain and loneliness" and revealed that she had a "really traumatic childhood".

Her life was supposed to change for the better, at least initially, when in 2007 – still under the name of Michelle Ramsden and as the single mother of her daughter – she became friends with a local Muslim family who impressed her with her warmth and friendliness.

The impressive Shaikh unintentionally got her on a path to reject mainstream Islam taught in her mosque in search of an extremist ideology. She found it.

Shaikh had his sights set on martyrdom until 2016, as propaganda for jihad spread worldwide.

And in the undercover police, Shaikh believed he had found the perfect confidante.

She tried to impress her with her determination to "kill as many as possible" before she was killed herself. Shaikh later confessed to the police after her arrest that she always wanted to kill herself.

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