A terrorist couple who planned a bombing campaign after wooing each other with videos of ISIS atrocities were jailed for a total of 26 years.
Sudanese lonely heart Munir Hassan Mohammed, 36, and chemist Rowaida El-Hassan, 33, met on the dating site SingleMuslim.com and she declared her undying love before they met.
Mohammed used Facebook to contact an ISIS commander and download terrorist publications as the couple plotted to make bombs and poisons together.
Mother-of-two El-Hassan used her expertise to instruct asylum seeker Mohammed as he went shopping for a list of ingredients for homemade explosives.
He planned to pack the bomb into a pressure cooker to cause maximum casualties in a ‘lone wolf’ attack, the Old Bailey heard.
Food factory worker Mohammed had an estranged wife in Sudan and El-Hassan, who has a Masters degree in pharmacy from University College London, was looking for love after her husband cheated on her and they divorced.
The pair became ‘ideological soulmates’ and shared gruesome videos of Isis fighters beheading prisoners as their online romance blossomed.
They were arrested in the run-up to Christmas 2016 after Mohammed bought chemicals from Asda and made enquiries about the pressure cooker.
He claimed he sent El-Hassan Isis propaganda videos to show her ‘this is not the Muslim way’ and demonstrate terrorists ‘were not good people’.
Mohammed insisted he was only buying hydrogen peroxide to treat a cut on his hand and El-Hassan agreed insisting she did not support terrorists.
But the jury found the pair were both found guilty of preparing terrorist acts.
They avoided looking at each other throughout the trial and showed little emotion as the verdicts were announced last month.
Mohammed, wearing a blue tracksuit, looked down in the dock as he was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum of 14 years.
El-Hassan, wearing a blue cardigan and black headscarf, sat quietly in the dock as she was sentenced to 12 years in prison. She will remain on licence for five years after she is released.
Judge Michael Topolski, QC, said: ‘The defendants were in regular contact. Munir Mohammed began to send her videos via WhatsApp, sometimes several at once.
‘On 9 July 2016 for example Munir Mohammed sent her eight videos at about 6.30 in the morning.
‘One depicted three male children executing three adult prisoners.
‘Later that night just before 11 o’ clock she sent him a message which read: “Send some more.”
‘They shared offensive and deeply disturbing attitudes towards, for example, followers of Shia Islam, gay people, and others routinely targeted by Islamic State.
‘They adopted and shared the central message of the material.’
The judge told Mohammed: ‘You entered this country illegally in 2014 and applied immediately for refugee status.
‘Having obtained false identity documents you began to work and live in Derby.
‘There is no evidence you came to this country to attack it.
‘Once here it seems that you undertook that process alone and via the internet.
‘You decided to plan an attack on the country in which you were seeking asylum.
‘For this plan you needed help. You found that help on the website SingleMuslim.com.
‘Within weeks you were sending Rowaida El-Hassan Isis execution and propaganda videos and other material.
‘Your intention was to cause an explosion intended to cause multiple deaths.’
Judge Topolski told El-Hassan, who came to the UK from Sudan aged three: ‘You have turned your back to all the opportunities and advantages made available to you.’
The judge described her as a ‘strong willed woman able to understand precisely what she was being asked to do.’
He continued: ‘Your commitment was consistent and sustained.
‘There must have been any number of opportunities for you to stop and turn away.
‘You chose not to, indeed, you actively chose to continue.’
El-Hassan had questioned the targeting of ‘soft targets’ after the Orlando attack on 12 June 2016 in which 29-year-old Omar Mateen killed 49 people and wounded 58 others.
Mohammed justified the attack to her.
Five jurors returned to the Old Bailey to see the pair jailed in front of packed public gallery.
Mohammed’s SingleMuslim.com profile stated he was a physicist working in ‘oil exploration’ who was looking to marry as soon as possible and have children.
The refugee was actually working 12-hour night shifts preparing ready meals for high street stores at Kerry Foods in Burton-on-Trent, Derby.
His dating profile read: ‘This world is working station to prepare for the next life.
‘If I did well in my past Allah he will give me good wife to help me worship him inshallah.’
El-Hassan registered on the site in January last year after she separated and divorced from her husband, who lives in Sudan.
Fifty-one users sent messages to El-Hassan’s dating profile, which read: ‘I want someone who will be up front, honest, and will do the same and patience.
‘Unfortunately real, honest women like me often get passed over because we don’t stand out (are often quiet) and keep to ourselves.
‘I am very family orientated, my parents and children come first.’
The couple first made contact in early 2016 and Mohammed sent her videos on WhatsApp showing children executing prisoners and suicide bombers blowing themselves up.
She began telling Mohammed how much she cared for him and sent him money.
By April of that year she was telling Mohammed she was in love with him.
Soon they were chatting on the phone and Skyping for up to five hours a time.
Prosecutor Anne Whyte, QC, said: ‘They exchanged materials and views at the time, we say, Mohammed was planning to perform an attack of his own, motivated and inspired by what he had seen and heard on social media.
‘Rowaida El Hassan had a professional knowledge of chemicals because of her professional training and qualifications.
‘She assisted Mohammed by providing him with information about chemical components required for bomb making and how to source them and she assisted his online research about the manufacture of ricin using castor beans.
‘In doing so she supported him in his engagement with attack planning.’
Mohammed used Facebook to contact ISIS commander Abubakr Kurdi and pledged allegiance to the terrorist cause.
Kurdi has celebrated terrorist atrocities in Nice, Normandy and Orlando and called for lone wolf attacks throughout the world.
Mohammed begged his ISIS commander to send bomb making instructions and downloaded a video on how to make ricin.
El Hassan directed him to websites which also show how to process castor beans to make the deadly poison.
Within three months he had complete instructions on the manufacture of ricin and how to make a viable IED which could be detonated remotely.
On December 1, 2016, the couple had a phone chat and then El Hassan sent him a WhatsApp message stating simply ‘Hydrogen Peroxide.’
Later that day Mohammed was at the Asda store in Derby and after speaking to his online lover on the phone again she sent him a link to a picture of a bottle of the chemical.
He bought a bottle of nail polish remover in the shop because it contained another bomb making ingredient.
A week later he was at Ace Discounts in Derby asking about pressure cookers.
Three days later El Hassan sent him a message asking for Allah to have mercy on Osama Bin Laden.
Mohammed did buy hydrogen peroxide from a local pharmacy and a bottle of bomb making acid which he stored in his fridge.
El Hassan purchased facemasks and also had a one litre container of a drain cleaner containing almost pure sulphuric acid.
Counter terror officers found bomb manuals and instructions for ricin and mobile phone detonators when they raided Mohammed’s Derby home on 12 December 2016.
They also discovered the 200ml bottle of hydrogen peroxide and 500ml of hydrochloric acid – two of the components needed to make the unstable explosive triacetone triperoxide (TATP).
Ms Whyte said: ‘Both of them possessed material useful to someone wishing to manufacture improvised explosive devices that are designed to injure or kill in an indiscriminate way.’
Mohammed, of Leopold Street, Derby, and El-Hassan, of Willesden Lane, Willesden, each denied but were convicted of one count of preparing terrorist acts between November 2015 and September 2016.
The investigation was led by Counter Terrorism Policing North East and the East Midlands Special Operations Unit – Special Branch, supported by Derbyshire, and Metropolitan Police Forces.
DCI Paul Greenwood from Counter Terrorism Policing North East, said: ‘It was only a matter of weeks after meeting each other that Mohammed and El Hassan had formed such a strong trust that Mohammed shared extremist material with her.
‘This then rapidly escalated and El Hassan, a qualified pharmacist, readily passed on her knowledge to Mohammed giving him the technical assistance he need in preparing for a terrorist attack.
‘Although we do not know what Mohammed and El Hassan’s exact intentions were, a number of concerning items had already been purchased and the pair had done extensive research regarding making TATP (acetone peroxide) and ricin.
‘The evidence clearly shows that the pair planned to cause harm and today’s verdict, and subsequent sentences, means they will now have to face up to their actions in prison.’
Detective Superintendent Mark Pollock, Head of EMSOU-SB, said: ‘The response to this incident demonstrates our commitment to finding and bringing to justice those who are intent on causing harm to our communities in the name of whatever cause.
‘While this conspiracy was centred in Derby and London, resources from across the national Counter Terrorism network were brought to bear on them, culminating in the successful result today.
‘Nevertheless, while these individuals are today starting long prison sentences, it is essential that the public continues to provide information around others who may be planning or supporting attacks like those we saw earlier this year in Manchester and London.’
Chief Superintendent Jim Allen, who is in charge of policing in Derby, said: ‘The residents of Derby were shocked by these arrests late last year. Through our relationship with our partner agencies and through our Safer Neighbourhood teams, we were able to reassure the community and they really pulled together to support each other.
‘This case is a stark reminder to Derby residents that the threat of terrorism is real and present and it highlights the need to be vigilant. Your local policing teams are at work every day trying to address this threat and it’s testament to the community in Derby that Mohammed was detected and brought to justice before he could act.
‘Derby has always been a vibrant and multi-cultural city; a safe place to live, work and visit. My message is this – come to Derby, enjoy shopping here, enjoy our nightlife and everything the city has to offer.
‘I would ask anyone to report anything suspicious to us; be that suspicious behaviour among friends, colleagues, neighbours or family. Speak to us and share any concerns you have.’