Kenyan intelligence leads to conviction of Somalian who discussed attacks in the UK

Aweys Shikhey
Aweys Shikhey. Photo: Met Police

A Somalian-born Dutch national has been found guilty of preparing for acts of terrorism at the Old Bailey after he was stopped and arrested by Counter Terrorism officers as he prepared to board a flight to Turkey, intending to then travel on to Syria to fight for ISIS.

Officers from the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command launched an investigation in February 2017, following information received from Kenyan authorities that a man in London was in contact with another man in Kenya discussing terrorist activity.

A laptop seized during the separate investigation in Kenya revealed conversations between 38 year-old delivery driver Aweys Shikhey and Kenya-based Somalian Abdirahman Idrissa Hassan dating from May 2016 to September 2016 in which the pair indicated their support for so-called Islamic State via encrypted messaging apps Threema and Telegram.

As well as references made by Shikhey of wanting to travel to Syria and making plans to join Daesh, the pair discussed murdering the Queen and former Prime Minister David Cameron. They also talked about shooting Jewish people and launching an AK47 attack at White Hart Lane, then-home to Tottenham Hotspur football club.

White Hart Lane
Aerial view Tottenham Hotspur Football Club Photograph taken from Helicopter encircling the ground. Photo: Alan Swain (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Recovered messages dating back to May 31 2016 showed Shikhey had been thinking about travelling to take part in jihad for a year.

The court heard that Hassan wrote: “May God bestow you in killing David Cameron and the old woman Elizabeth”, believed to be a reference to the Queen.

Hassan went on to ask if the defendant could buy bullets and a gun in the UK and Shikhey said three or five people were needed to “carry out a bloody attack”.

He said it would be best to find AK47s and other automatic weapons, adding: “They could have been taken to Stamford Hill and when people leave from their game.”

As a result of this information, detectives made further enquiries and whilst no further evidence was found to show that Shikhey was actually planning an attack in the UK, officers did find further proof that he was planning to travel to Syria in order to join Daesh.

In May 2017, officers became aware that Shikhey booked a flight from Stansted to Sarajevo, via Istanbul. After checking-in at Stansted for the first leg of the flight to Turkey, officers arrested Shikhey before he could board the plane.

On his arrest, Shikhey had in his possession a number of mobile phones, as well $700 and €400 in cash. He’d also taken a ‘selfie’ at the airport on his phone – something that he had previously been told to do in one of the conversations found on the laptop in Kenya, seemingly as an effort to make himself look like a tourist.

Aweys Shikhey
‘Selfie’ taken by Aweys Shikhey at Stansted Airport. Photo: Met Police

Officers seized various electronic and mobile devices from Shikhey, both in his possession at the airport and also from his home address. On these, they found further evidence of his support for Daesh with various files and videos on the devices. Officers also found that he had been in touch with a woman in Norway who had applied to ISIS to become a jihadi bride.

She was subsequently identified as Raaqiya Hussein, a Somalian living in Norway, who is now awaiting trial for terror offences.

Through chat and audio files on his devices, the pair were shown to have discussed their support and desire to join and support Daesh over several months, starting in December 2016.

Evidence from Hussein’s phone suggested she was in contact with Islamic State fighters and sympathisers and she was also in possession of bomb-making instructions including a step-by-step guide on how to make explosives in a kitchen sink.

Detectives also found that in the weeks just before his planned flight, Shikhey had applied for a number of loans. This is likely to have been a result of an earlier conversation found on the laptop in Kenya which showed Shikhey had been advised that he would need ‘more money’ to realise his ambition of joining Daesh.

He tried to raise money by applying for various loans, securing £10,000 from Barclays for a “wedding”, jurors were told.

In the spring of 2017, he borrowed more money from his boss on the pretext it would be used to help him visit his two wives and children in Holland and Kenya.

While Shikhey admitted he wanted to live in a country under Sharia law, he insisted he had ‘no interest’ in fighting for the Islamic State.

However, prosecutor Barnaby Jameson described Shikhey as ‘a terrorist hiding in plain sight,’ adding that Shikhey ‘was a secret and indeed eager supporter of Islamic State’.

Shikhey was charged on 30 May 2017 and following a seven day trial at the Old Bailey was found guilty and will be sentenced on 15 March.

Commander Dean Haydon, head of the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command, said: “To his friends and colleagues Shikhey was, on the face of it, leading a normal life here in London.

“But unbeknown to them and to his wife and family in Holland, he was a supporter of Daesh and had for about a year been planning how he could leave the UK and travel out to join Daesh.

“Thanks to the information we received from the Kenyan authorities and the good work here by my detectives thereafter, we have been able to thwart his attempts and stop him from joining Daesh and committing terrorist acts over there.”