Violent al-Qaeda propaganda, including footage of the beheading of hostages, was distributed around the globe by computer by young men sitting in their bedrooms in Britain, a court heard yesterday.
Three men appeared before Woolwich Crown Court accused of inciting terrorism abroad. They were said to have a “close affiliation” with al-Qaeda in Iraq, the group founded by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Younis Tsouli, 23, Waseem Mughal, 24, and Tariq al-Daour, 21, allegedly played important roles in al-Qaeda’s “media war” and had massive quantities of films, audio recordings, books and documents promoting the extremist ideology of Osama bin Laden and global jihad.
Among the footage found in police raids on their homes in London and Kent were films of the beheading of the British engineer Kenneth Bigley as well as the executions of American, Korean, Japanese, Egyptian, Iraqi, Turkish and Bulgarian hostages.
The footage of Mr Bigley’s death was found in a computer file labelled “The throat slitting of the Briton who Blair and his people would not help”. Other video material showed him pleading for his life along with his fellow hostages, the Americans Jack Hensley and Eugene Armstrong.
Police also seized film of the beheadings in Iraq of the Americans Nick Berg and Paul Marshall Johnson Jr, and the murder in Pakistan of the US journalist Daniel Pearl. The videos contained scenes of hostages as their heads were severed.
Other films found on the men’s computers or on discs in their rooms included footage of suicide attacks in Iraq, the video wills of “martyrs” and stylised productions eulogising the 9/11 hijackers.
“Possession of this material is strong evidence of the depth of their adherence to the cause,” Mark Ellison, for the prosecution, told the court.
“Collecting it, providing links for others to obtain it, applauding it, defending it — as we say these defendants did — as well as making it available to a wide audience on websites is strong evidence of the approval of it and of the ideology it seeks to justify.”
Mr Tsouli had a Powerpoint presentation entitled “carbom-bzip” and another file containing video clips of the World Bank building and the US Capitol in Washington DC and the George Washington National Masonic Memorial.
A CD was found in the home of Mr Mughal containing a file giving instructions on how to make a suicide-bomb vest.
Mr al-Daour had a CD file entitled “special course in manufacturing explosives”, a document with instructions for firing a rocket-propelled grenade and a data file, “The Mujahidin Explosives Handbook”.
Mr Ellison said that the defendants, who were arrested in October 2005, were “intelligent young men” who appeared to lead normal lives.
“Behind the apparent normality of their daily lives and for at least a year before they were arrested, the truth is that each of these young men firmly believed in, supported and set about inciting others to follow an extreme ideology of violent holy war,” he said.
That incitement was carried out through the dissemination of propaganda attacking al-Qaeda’s enemies and praising its violent attacks and murders.
Mr Ellison said: “The effective recruitment of new adherents to the cause and the inciting of them to join in the fighting and killing and become mujahidin, if not also martyrs, is the very lifeblood of achieving the religious dominance that has its root in this ideology.
“The central importance of powerfully expressed and constructed media in that process, and having the means of distributing and pushing the message to those prepared to listen and likely to be persuaded to join in themselves, is at the very heart of advancing this ideology.
“This is the area in which these three defendants, we allege, were active. Each of them was adept at the use of computers and the internet and they each demonstrated by what they collected, by what they provided to others, by what they said on record on their computers, an avid adherence to the need for violent holy war.”
All three deny possession of documents or records likely to be of use to a person preparing an act of terrorism, and incitement to commit an act of terrorism outside Britain. Mr Tsouli and Mr Mughal deny a charge of conspiracy to murder which, the jury heard, was connected to a plot involving individuals in Bosnia.The trial continues.
Younis Tsouli, from Shepherds Bush, West London, was born in Morocco but was granted indefinite leave to remain in Britain two months before his arrest. He studied Information Technology and computer technology at Westminster College of Computing in 2001-03 and, according to his CV, was fluent in French and Arabic
Waseem Mughal lived with his family in Chatham, Kent, and is a biochemistry graduate from the University of Leicester. While a student, he ran the website of the university’s Islamic Society
Tariq al-Daour was born in the United Arab Emirates of Palestinian parents and became a British citizen in May 2004. Shortly before his arrest he had applied to study for a law degree
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