Britain’s security services and police officers set up a fake courier company last year to gather evidence on terrorist suspects believed to be of Pakistani origin as part of a counter-terrorism operation, a UK court has been told.
MI5 and West Midlands Police officers created Hero Couriers and hired one of the suspects, believed to be plotting with a gang to carry out an attack using a pipe bomb and meat cleaver, the Old Bailey court in London was told this week.
An undercover police officer, known only as “Vincent”, posed as the boss of the delivery company in Birmingham to recruit 25-year-old Khobaib Hussain.
Hussain is on trial for preparing terrorist acts between May and August 2016 alongside Naweed Ali, 29, Mohibur Rahman, 32, and Tahir Aziz, 38. All four men deny the charges.
However, three of the four had admitted terrorist offences back in 2012 – Ali and Hussain for flying to Pakistan in an attempt to attend a terrorist training camp and Rahman for owning copies of ‘Inspire’, an al-Qaeda magazine.
This time the men were arrested in a series of raids in Birmingham and Stoke in August 2016 after a vehicle driven by Ali was searched and revealed a “partially constructed” pipe bomb, an imitation handgun, a cleaver with the word “kafir” scratched on to it and shotgun shells, The Guardian reported.
As part of the operation, officers hired premises in central Birmingham and drivers, who were given T-shirts with the Hero Couriers logo on them.
Prosecutor Gareth Patterson said Vincent contacted Hussain in July 2016.
“You [told him you] believed he was looking for work, you were looking at his CV, you wanted to recruit drivers, and you were wondering if he fancied attending for an interview,” he asked “Vincent” in court.
Vincent then hired Hussain, paying him 100 pounds a day to deliver luggage to UK airports and other sites around the country. He had the remit to “identify criminals or associates of Mr Hussain to detect and prevent crime or to allow a prosecution of any offence exposed”, the jury was told.
The group communicated using encrypted messaging and met at restaurants and parks, allegedly to avoid detection. The trial is ongoing and expected to last for a few weeks.