A group of midlands men found guilty of plotting a UK terror attack were all sentenced to life imprisonment on Thursday.
Naweed Ali, 29, Khobaib Hussain, 25, and Mohibur Rehman, 33, who refer to themselves as ‘The Three Musketeers’, were all sentenced to life, with a minimum of 20 years in prison.
38-year-old Tahir Aziz, who was the only one of the four present in court during the announcement, was also sentenced to life but with a minimum of 15 years behind bars as a result of his lesser part in the plot.
The men were also found guilty of terrorist offences on Wednesday.
The group, who all denied involvement in terrorist activity, were described by police as being “dangerous” and planning a “mass casualty attack”.
They were caught following an operation by counter-terrorism police in which a fake courier firm, called Hero Couriers, was set up. The firm hired both Hussain and Ali, who were being monitored by the authorities, as drivers in August last year. Upon arrival for his first shift, Ali’s black Seat Leon was searched after it was left at a Birmingham depot. Inside, MI5 officers found a partially-constructed pipe bomb and a meat cleaver with the word “kafir” (Arabic for non-believer) scratched into it.
An imitation handgun, latex gloves and industrial tape were also recovered from the vehicle.
The men claimed that the evidence was planted by their boss “Vincent”, who was in fact an undercover MI5 officer.
The officer, who gave evidence anonymously, was cross-examined for 12 days and repeatedly denied any involvement.
The men were arrested on 26 August last year.
Neighbours Ali and Hussain had been jailed previously for terrorism offences. In 2011, the pair travelled to Pakistan in an attempt to attend an Al-Qaeda training camp. Both were arrested and convicted upon return to the UK and plead guilty to engaging in conduct in preparation of terrorist attacks.
Rahman served a five-year sentence previously for possessing material linked to terrorism.
The jury heard of how the men had participated in extremist social media groups and viewed violent material online.
Chief Superintendent Matt Ward, head of the West Midlands Counter-Terrorism Unit, said the men were “inspired by the Daesh ideology” following their earlier prison sentences and “shared material of the ideology.”