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Illegal immigrant who wanted to attack a British country show is jailed for eight years for supporting a global jihadi network from his Cheshire flat
- Iraqi Kurd who has been in Britain for ten years ran the ‘IT department’ for ISIS
- When his flat in Warrington was raided last August, police found 360 sim cards
- He was behind 1.8m encrypted messages and sharing bomb-making plans
- Judge says jihadi was part of ISIS’s ‘central nervous system’ as he jails him
Rabar Mala – who boasting of plotting an attack on a county show – has been jailed for using encrypted apps to help jihadists communicate in a first-of-its-kind case
An illegal immigrant who supported a network of jihadis from his tiny flat after evading efforts to deport him boasted of planning an atrocity targeting a Royal show with thousands of visitors.
Rabar Mala, 32, was refused permission to remain in Britain in 2008 but stayed under the radar by using his brother’s identity, working as a car valeter.
But during his lunch breaks the Iraqi Kurd used his tiny one-bedroom flat in Cheshire as the secret nerve centre for an international terror network exploiting an online messaging site popular with Islamist fighters for its uncrackable encryption.
He also claimed to have tickets for the Royal Cheshire County Show – whose past presidents have included Princess Anne and the Countess of Wessex – to mount an attack using ‘people and weapons’ which would be ‘an end for Crusaders’.
Mala also revelled in the murderous Manchester Arena bombing.
Although no evidence of a plot was found, a police raid found he had activated hundreds of mobile phone Sim cards to allow jihadists in Iraq and Syria to use the Telegram app, uncovering a staggering 1.8million messages in four languages.
He used encrypted app Telegram to help ISIS jihadis around the world communicate. Screengrabs from his phone show the number of messages he was exchanging
As Mala was today jailed for eight years following the first prosecution of its kind, police said the case once again highlighted how the refusal of some global social media companies to share their data with the authorities puts the public at risk.
‘I would say Mala was as dangerous as the IS fighter with a Kalashnikov or rocket launcher, because he was providing them with a vital tool in their armoury,’ said Det Supt Will Chatterton, head of investigations for the North West Counter Terrorism Unit.
‘It was a pivotal role. He was supporting global terrorism from his flat in Warrington.
‘Giving people the ability to communicate in a war zone is an incredibly important piece of the terrorists’ armoury.’
He said it was ‘fiendishly difficult’ to disentangle such a vast web of messages, adding that it would ‘make my officers’ job a lot easier’ if companies like Telegram co-operated with police.
Mala was an illegal immigrant who had applied for the right to stay in Britain in 2008 but been turned down.
He managed to stay under the radar using the name of a brother who had left Britain.
A counter-terrorism detective said Mala was ‘as dangerous as the IS fighter with a Kalashnikov’
Using the online name Zak Kurdy, his simple technique was to use old-style phones to register SIM cards and then switch them to his Samsung Galaxy Note to activate them.
Terrorists seeking to use the Telegram app would contact Mala in Warrington who would allocate them a phone number, enabling them to register an account.
The social media site would send an activation code which Mala would report back to the jihadi using Telegram, completing the account set-up.
Crucially, the exchange and the resulting account was both anonymous and untraceable back to either of them.
When counter-terrorism officers raided his home last August they found 1.8million encrypted messages in four languages. He had 29 versions of the Telegram app on his phone.
Police found hundreds of sim cards at his Warrington flat, which were used to help his network
Detectives said the arrangement was ‘simple but very effective’, enabling him to ‘dedicate his time to helping truly evil causes’, while becoming increasingly confident he would never be caught.
Mala had activated the latest batch of £1 SIM cards only hours before he was finally caught in a dawn raid, the latest in a total of 360 cards from as far back as January 2016. They were hidden in a cupboard with a false back.
Among messages which were retrieved by police were threats by Mala to launch a terrorist attack on the Royal Cheshire County Show, which attracts almost 100,000 people every June.
‘It’s the biggest show,’ he wrote. ‘About half a million will attend…cars of every type, lorries, trailers, horses and owners’.
He referred to a semi-automatic machine gun and said the operation would ‘start tomorrow’. He added: ‘I’m here as a representative abroad’.
He was sent a response that began: ‘A seeker of martyrdom is good’.
Mala said he was ready to launch the attack, adding: ‘I have about seven tickets. It only needs people and weapons. It will be an end for Crusaders and all of them are big people ‘.
Photos from the investigation released today show bags of sim cards hidden in cupboards
He also celebrated Salman Abedi’s attack on innocent concert-goers in Manchester, telling one of his contacts: ‘May Allah direct their shooting’.
Security chiefs fear that other terrorists are fulfilling a similar role around the world.
But the investigation was hampered by the fact that Telegram does not share information with law enforcement agencies.
The prosecution, brought under Section 16 of the Terrorism Act 2000, is the first of its kind in Britain.
He pleaded guilty to two counts of using possessions and properties, namely mobile phones and SIM cards, for terrorist purposes when he appeared at Manchester Crown Court.
Defending, Christopher Henley, QC, said Mala was a lonely and isolated individual who had been gripped by ‘an obscure fascination’ for ISIS.
Jailing him, Judge Patrick Field said: ‘These were the deliberate and repeated acts of a determined adherent to the IS creed’.
He said the significance of his crimes should not be underestimated, given that ISIS thrives on propaganda and exploits ‘the wide reach of communications technology’.
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