LONDON — A 19-year-old from Hounslow faces jail charges after admitting he was planning a terror attack at an Elton John concert in Hyde Park.
Haroon Syed pleaded guilty on Thursday to a charge of preparation of terrorist acts between April and September of last year.
According to court records, Syed attempted to buy weapons online, including a bomb vest or explosives, and searched for a busy area in which he could kill the most people. The teen was caught online after he had unknowingly started a conversation with officers at a British Security Service going by the name Abu Yusuf. The officers pretended to be someone that could provide him with the weapons.
Judge Michael Topolski QC said Syed faced a “discretionary life sentence,” but temporarily adjourned sentencing until June 8, giving enough time for a probation and psychiatric report to be done.
According to officials, in the online conversations, Syed requested “gear” for his “op.” When asked for more information on his plan, Syed was specific and said he wanted a machine gun and an explosive vest.
“So after some damage with machine gun do martyrdom … that’s what I’m planning to do,” Syed wrote. “You have to find out the price for the machine gun, any gun,” he added after he was told the items would be expensive.
Syed eventually met with “Yusuf,” an undercover officer, and in the recorded conversation, says he really needs a bomb and gun.
According to records, on August 30, Syed further stated, “I might put the bomb in the train and then I’m going to jump out so the bomb explodes on the train … So, ask the brother if he can make that type of bomb with button.”
Officials say Syed was next tracked and found to be researching targets and busy places to attack, including an Elton John concert in Hyde Park on September 11 last year.
“I was thinking of Oxford Street … If I go to prison, I go to prison. If I die, I die, you understand,” Syed told Yusuf.
Police arrested Syed at his home on September 8 and seized his phone. When they asked for his phone’s password Syed said, “Yeah, I.S.I.S – you like that?”
Syed’s defense attorney, Mark Summers QC, claims he was “highly vulnerable due to family history, lack of education, addiction to violent online games and the arrest and imprisonment of his brother.”
Summers went on to say he never intended to carry out an attack and that all of his conversations with Yusuf were a “fantasy to see how far it would go.”
“The proper response of the State should have been to engage Prevent to help this young man, to steer him away from the path it was feared he was going down, rather than guiding him down it,” Summers said in hopes of minimizing his client’s sentence.
The judge refused the theory and instead said he would only give an indication of Syed’s sentence if he pleaded guilty and admitted the offense.
At the same time of Syed’s arrest, officials say his older brother, 23-year-old Nadir Syed, was jailed for life plotting an Islamic State-inspired Poppy Day attack.
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