A former British Airways computer expert was convicted Monday of conspiring with a wanted terrorist to blow up a plane.
Rajib Karim, 31, used his position at the airline to plot an attack with Anwar al-Awlaki, a notorious radical preacher associated with al Qaida, a court was told.
A jury at Woolwich Crown Court in south east London found him guilty of four counts of engaging in preparation for terrorist attacks.
Karim plotted to blow up an aircraft, shared information of use to al-Awlaki, offered to help financial or disruptive attacks on BA and gained a UK job to exploit terrorist purposes, the jurors ruled. Karim was “committed to an extreme jihadist and religious cause” and was “determined to seek martyrdom”, jurors were told.
The Bangladeshi national, who moved with his wife and son to Newcastle, northern England, in 2006, had already admitted being involved in the production of a terrorist group’s video, fundraising and volunteering for terror abroad.
Karim, a privately-educated IT expert from a middle-class family in Dhaka, was lured into becoming an avid supporter of the extremist organisation Jammat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) by his younger brother, Tehzeeb. But their plan to live in an Islamic state was put on hold when Karim moved to England in December 2006, fearing his son was dying of bowel cancer.
Karim, described as “mild-mannered, well-educated and respectful”, hid his hatred for Western ways from colleagues by joining a gym, playing football and never airing extreme views, the court was told. But at the same time he was using his access to the airline’s offices in Newcastle and at Heathrow to spread confidential information. After gaining a post-graduate job at BA in 2007, Karim held secret meetings with fellow Islamic extremists at Heathrow and, in 2009, began communicating with al-Awlaki.
He also shared details of his BA contacts and communicated in code with JMB supporters in Bangladesh. Jonathan Laidlaw prosecuting lawyer, told the jury Karim was “anxious” to carry out an attack and he was determined to seek martyrdom – to die and to sacrifice himself for his cause.
“Through a terrorist’s eyes” it was “just about as good a job as could be obtained”, Laidlaw added.
Karim became highly skilled in conducting secret communications and contacted his brother using elaborate encryptions on computer spreadsheets. The sleeper cell terrorist “dedicated himself” to extremism, police said.
He worked hard distributing jihadist texts, audio recordings and videos across the internet for the media arm of the terrorist group. One project included producing a series of propaganda videos aimed at gathering support, inspiring supporters and furthering the group’s other aims.
But as Karim grew frustrated with JMB and the lack of terrorist opportunities, his brother and two others travelled from Bangladesh to Yemen in 2009 where they made contact with al-Awlaki. The terrorist group had just been linked to the cargo terror bomb plot and there were reports that al-Awlaki had been killed in an air strike.
Karim’s brother told al-Awlaki about his work at BA and the terrorist leader handed over a voice recording to prove he was still alive, provoking an exchange of secret messages. In January, 2010, al-Awlaki contacted Karim again with questions about airport security and his role at BA.
After hearing Karim’s story, al-Awlaki emailed Karim saying: “Depending on what your role is and the amount of information you can get your hands on, you might be able to provide us with critical and urgent information and you may be able to play a crucial role. I pray that Allah may grant us a breakthrough through you.”
Karim was arrested in Newcastle on February 25; he has not been sentenced so far.