ISIS terrorist pleads guilty to church bomb plot in UK

Aditi Khanna, London
Published : 13:50, Feb 22, 2020 | Updated : 13:53, Feb 22, 2020

Safiyya Amira ShaikhA female Islamic State (ISIS) supporter on Friday pleaded guilty to terrorism charges in the UK, including a plot to bomb St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

Safiyya Amira Shaikh, a 36-year-old Muslim convert who was born Michelle Ramsden, was arrested in October last year following an undercover operation by counter-terrorism officers during which she sought the supply of bombs from them. At a hearing at the Old Bailey court in London on Thursday, she admitted to two terrorism offences and was remanded in custody to be sentenced at the same court on May 11.

“[She] made contact with a person she believed to be able to assist in preparing explosives; researched methods and decided on a plan to carry out a terrorist act; travelled to central London and stayed at a hotel in order to conduct reconnaissance; selected the hotel as a target for an explosive device; attended St Paul’s Cathedral to scope it, for security and for the best place to plant a second explosive device,” the Metropolitan Police said, in reference to the charges against her.

“[She] met a person and supplied her with two bags, with the intention and belief that explosive devices would be fitted into the bags; prepared the words of a pledge of allegiance to Daesh, also known as Islamic State,” it notes.

Over the two months before her arrest in October 2019, Shaikh built up a relationship with two undercover officers who she believed were a husband-wife extremist team and exchanged messages via the encrypted social media app Telegram. She shared an image of St. Paul’s Cathedral, one of London's most famous landmarks, with one of the two undercover officers and expressed a keenness to kill a lot of people in a place like that.

The west London based UK-born woman converted to Islam in 2007 after being impressed by the kindness of her Muslim neighbours but seemed to have turned towards more extremist violent ideology of ISIS by 2015.

Shaikh now faces life imprisonment after pleading guilty to one count of preparation of terrorist acts under the UK’s Terrorism Act 2006 between 19 August 2019 and 10 October 2019, with the intention of committing acts of terrorism and engaging in conduct in preparation for giving effect to that intention. The second terror charge covers a count of dissemination of terrorist publications, by providing a service to others that enabled them to obtain, read, listen to or look at terrorist publications via ‘Telegram’.

Prosecutors in the case say her social media activity was intended as a direct or indirect encouragement of terrorism.