School friends jailed after holiday to join Daesh
Two school friends who claimed they went to Turkey for a relaxing summer holiday have been jailed for planning to sneak into Syria so they could help Daesh commit further atrocities.
Safwaan Mansur, 23, and Hanzalah Patel, 22, told their families there were going to Germany to lead prayers at a mosque but continued to Istanbul in June 2017. Their aim was to travel to a town on the border with Syria and get across. They argued that the reason they did not tell their families about going to Turkey was because they would worry about their safety.
They made the same journey from the UK to Turkey via Germany in 2016 and had travelled close to the Syrian border. They only turned back because they lost contact with the person who was going to facilitate the journey into Syria.
For their attempt in 2017 they made up a second story about going to the mosque to surprise the children with a gift of camping supplies. This was to explain the survival gear that was in their luggage.
There were caught after sharing their plan with an undercover US agent who they thought would help them with get into Syria. There were arrested by Turkish police at their hotel in Istanbul and returned to the UK. The jury took less than 50 minutes to find them unanimously guilty of terrorism offences at Birmingham Crown Court.
Jenny Hopkins, head of the Special Crime and Counter-Terrorism Division in the CPS, said: “Safwaan Mansur and Hanzalah Patel wanted others to believe they went on an innocent holiday that included dropping off camping supplies for children in Germany.
“The CPS showed they lied to their families about their true intentions and asked an undercover operative for help to get into Syria.
“Like them, individuals planning to travel to fight in war zones could end up in a prison cell instead."
Patel funded their travel, accommodation and the purchase of survival gear by making online credit card applications. Not all were successful but enough were to raise his credit card debts to almost £3,500. The CPS told the court that this was out of character for someone recently out of school and of very modest means.
Images found on Patel’s mobile included a man’s severed head, pictures of Osama bin Laden and the Twin Towers and the front page of a document about going to Daesh controlled areas. He also had videos glorifying the use of suicide bombers and executions by Daesh forces. Mansur and similar images and a map of Daesh areas in Syria and Iraq.
Timeline of Mansur and Patel’s travel plans
Mid-2015 – Mansur and Patel start messaging each other about terrorist organisations, pledging allegiance and hiding things from their parents.
June 2016 – Both visit a mosque in Germany (Freiburg). They go via neighbouring Switzerland (Basel). Get involved in leading prayers at the mosque.
27 June – Arrive in Turkey (Istanbul).
1 July – Travel to Hatay by bus which is on the border with Syria.
2 July – Both book flights back to the UK via Istanbul and Basel.
3 July – Arrive back in the UK.
May – Mansur messaging US undercover operative about advice on visas and travel to Turkey and Syria. He says his plan is to go to another country in Europe for a day and then to Turkey. Mansur asked for a contact in Turkey when he and Patel got there. Patel making a number of credit card applications. Some are successful.
12/13 June – Patel uses his credit cards online to buy outdoor survival equipment.
15 June – The two fly out of Gatwick airport to Basel.
16 June – Travel to Istanbul and stay in same hotel as in 2016. Make contact with the undercover operative. Explain that their original contact cannot meet them until Friday. They are due to fly back to the UK before then.
21 June – They seek advice from the undercover operative to help get into Syria. They are told the contact who can help them will come to their hotel the next day.
22 June – Turkish police arrive at the hotel. Mansur and Patel are arrested and detained.
1 July – Arrive back at Heathrow airport and arrested by awaiting British police.
20 March– Trial starts at Birmingham crown court.
1 April – Jury return unanimous guilty verdicts after deliberating for less than 50 minutes.
20 May – Mansur and Patel are sentenced.