Teenager ‘left Lancashire for Islamic State’, court hears

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A teenager from Lancashire, who allegedly attempted to travel to fight for Islamic State said he became “lost” and felt alone when he got to the border with war-torn Syria, a court heard.

University student Ednane Mahmood, 19, of Blackburn, said he became “stranded” on the Turkey side of the border, alone, upset and running out of money.

He was in contact online with family who begged him to return home and told him to go to an airport to fly back to the UK.

Mahmood told the jury: “I did not know what to do. I was lost. My planning was not good.”

Mahmood is on trial at Manchester Crown Court charged with attempting to travel to Syria to commit acts of terrorism.

He denies the charge, and has also pleaded not guilty to two counts of providing others with internet links to speeches and propaganda, and at the time of doing so was reckless as to whether his conduct would be a direct or indirect encouragement or other inducement to the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.

Mahmood is alleged to have downloaded videos showing British aid worker David Haines being beheaded before fleeing from his home during the early hours to travel to Syria on September 18 last year.

He left without telling his parents or siblings, took little money and few possessions, the court heard.

Days before leaving, he downloaded a video which began with David Cameron talking about Islamic State before images showing the beheading of Mr Haines.

Prosecutor Julian Evans said the following day, Mahmood, “undeterred by this graphic and violent imagery”, began looking up cheap flights to Bulgaria and Turkey.

He said Mahmood planned to travel to Syria with the intention of committing acts of terrorism.

An examination of the Toshiba laptop recovered from his family home showed he posted links to Isis videos showing militants shooting soldiers and suicide bombers, the court heard.

In August 2014, he appeared to describe Isis as the “victorious group” and posted an image on Facebook with the words: “I wish I could fight in the cause of Allah and then be killed, and then fight, and then be killed, and then fight, and then be killed.”

But he never managed to cross the border to Syria and on September 20 from an internet cafe, he was in Twitter communication with his brother who persuaded him to come back to the UK.

In one message to his brother, he quoted the Koran, part of which said: “Fight in the way of Allah, be it slain or victorious.”

Mahmood told the jury this was not a reference to jihad, but means even if you try to help the oppressed whether you succeed or fail, you will be blessed.

“It doesn’t mean fight, it means help women and children, who are oppressed and mistreated,” he said.

Mahmood arrived back in the UK on September 24 and days later began his degree in Arabic at the University of Central Lancashire.

Before he was arrested he sent a lecture from a radical preacher, Anwar al-Awlaki, titled The Dust Will Never Settle Down, to a university friend and a similar video to his nephew.

He was arrested on November 25, 2014 where he accepted he had been trying to enter Syria and later said his actions were a “mistake”.

Police searches of his online activity showed Mahmood had made various postings online, one involved responding to comments on YouTube he made about a video by a Muslim preacher from Luton, highlighting the extremist nature of Isis.

Mahmood posted a comment saying: “What about Allah saying spite enemies in the neck?”

Ian McMeekin, defending, asked him to explain his thoughts.

The defendant replied: “I made comments and I can’t take them back. I should not have put that there. That was in the past. I just have to learn from it.”

The trial continues.