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05th Jun 2018

UK’s first all-female ISIS terror cell planned grenade and gun attack on British Museum

ISIS plotters caught in an undercover MI5 operation have been convicted

Oli Dugmore

ISIS plotters caught in an undercover MI5 operation have been convicted

A teenage girl has been found guilty of plotting a terror attack in London as part of the first all-female terrorist cell linked to ISIS in the UK.

Safaa Boular was 17 when she discussed the attack’s planning with undercover British intelligence officers. Now 18, Boular is one of the youngest females to be charged and convicted of terrorism offences in the UK.

She was accused of discussing an attack on the British Museum using grenades and guns with her partner Naweed Hussain, an ISIS militant. Boular, from Vauxhall in London, unwittingly told undercover MI5 operatives about plans to attack tourists at the museum.

After being detained on charges of attempting to travel to ISIS territory in Syria Boular told her older sister Rizlaine about the plans using a prison phone, and encouraged her to carry out a knife attack in Westminster.

Safaa denied two counts of preparing acts of terrorism but 22-year-old Rizlaine had already pleaded guilty to planning the knife attack in London. She was shot when she charged at officers during her arrest on April 27 last year.

The younger of the sisters lived with her 44-year-old mother Mina Dich who admitted assisting Rizlaine. 21-year-old family friend Khawla Barghouthi pleaded guilty to failing to disclose information about an attack.

The court heard how Safaa Boular met 30-year-old ISIS recruiter Naweed Hussain online when she was 16. Her attempted trip to Syria was meant to involve marrying Hussain and conducting a suicide attack together, according to prosecutors. Safaa’s defence lawyer said she was “groomed,” however.

After Hussain was killed in a US drone strike, British intelligence officers posed as his commander and began communicating with Safaa and collecting evidence against her.

Dich and Rizlaine Boular travelled around landmarks in London in what is understood to be reconnaissance of potential targets. The next day they went to a supermarket in Stockwell and bought a set of kitchen knives and a backpack.

A recorded phone call between Rizlaine and Safaa was played to the court. It made reference to an Alice in Wonderland-themed tea party which was code for the planned attack.

Rizlaine: Basically, yeah, I was speaking to Kha [Khawla Barghouti] on the phone, and you know the party I wanted to have? She, she knows a few recipes for some amazing cakes, so hopefully we can have really fancy, proper, like English tea party, king of thing.

Safaa: Are you going to wear Moroccan?

Rizlaine: No, I think everyone should wear like, I want it to be an English tea party kind of thing, little tea cups, tea cakes and stuff.

Safaa: Alice in Wonderland theme?

Rizlaine: Yep maybe Alice in Wonderland theme yeah.

Mina Dich: That will be fun.

After the phone call Barghouti text Rizlaine saying “The chef said it’s too early to book the party hall and find the right recipe for the cake.”

Alison Morgan, prosecuting, told the court: “Parties, cakes or making a cake are references to attack planning. Cakes and recipes are the method and the party is the attack.”

Dean Haydon, the Met’s senior national coordinator for counter-terrorism, said: “This was without doubt a major investigation for the counter-terrorism command working jointly with the security service, not only because it involved a family with murderous intent, but because it is the first all-female terrorist plot that’s been launched in the UK related to Daesh [ISIS].”

He said that Safaa Boular was a “calculated” and “devious” teenager. The jury was not swayed by Safaa’s defence that she was groomed by Hussain and Haydon emphasised that she had contacted individuals in Syria beforehand before being encouraged by her partner.

After two days of deliberation Boular was found guilty. She did not react. Judge Mark Dennis QC delayed sentencing for six weeks for a report to be compiled.