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Sunday 5 April 2020

ISIS-inspired woman admits plot to bomb St Paul’s Cathedral

In a Telegram message to an undercover officer, Michelle Ramsden-turned-Safiyya Amira Shaikh said she'd 'rather die young and get to Jannah quickest way possible'

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A woman supporter of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) admitted in a court of law in London that the terrorist organisation had plotted to kill Christians during the mass by planting a bomb under the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral.

In a chilling story of how far the ideology of the most infamous terrorist group of this age has inspired people, undercover officers had arrested Safiyya Amira Shaikh, 36, last year after her plan to install two explosive devices in central London — one in the historic Cathedral and one in a nearby hotel — unravelled. She had planned to carry out a devastating terrorist attack because of her allegiance to the ISIS, she confessed.

During a hearing at the Old Bailey (court) yesterday, Shaikh, a Muslim convert who was born Michelle Ramsden, confessed that she had visited the church to find the most effective way to understand the security measures and the best place to install a bomb that would go off on Christmas or Easter.

The prosecution said that Shaikh was born into a non-Muslim family and converted to Islam in 2007 under the influence of her Muslim neighbours although she later isolated herself and started following extremists online, The extremists of the Islamic State and other jihadist groups became obsessed with violent ideology.

Shaikh, a resident of Hayes, Middlesex, admitted to the preparation of terrorist acts and the proliferation of terrorist publications during a brief hearing at the Old Bailey.

She planned also to blow up the hotel in central London where she was staying during her trip.

Recognised as Britain’s first single female ISIS bomb expert, Shaikh was arrested in October last year when she had unwittingly asked an undercover police officer to supply her with bombs.

The ISIS-motivated woman formed a working relationship with two undercover police officers who arrested her after a pursuit of over two months. These officers were pretending to be a terrorist couple.

Using the encrypted social media app Telegram to communicate with them, Shaikh would send a series of messages to the couple about her plans. In one message, she said, “I want to kill a lot. I would like to do church… a day like Christmas or Easter good, kill more. I always send threats. But I want to make threats real.”

Shaikh also sent a photo of St Paul’s Cathedral to the police officer that read: “I would like to do this place for sure. I would like bomb (sic) and shoot til death… I really would love to destroy that place and the kaffir [enemies of ISIS] there.”

“I will to the bomb under the dome. I will also do something in (the) hotel, then church, then kill till I’m dead,” the ISIS-inspired terrorist wrote with a video of St Paul just a week later.

On 24 September, she met a women undercover cop in Uxbridge, west London, handed her two bags, asking her to fill them with bombs.

Then on 13 October, the woman undercover officer cancelled a second meeting and the police forced Sheikh to go to the flat where they arrested her.

By 2016 she had stopped visiting mosques, apparently worried that fellow worshipers and imams were sceptical of her extremist views. She was also involved in the government’s preventive programme aimed at preventing people from joining or supporting terrorism.

In an encrypted message to an undercover officer last August, she said she would “rather die young and get to Jannah (paradise) quickest way possible”.

The facts of the case were not read out in court but, according to the summary of the prosecution case, Sheikh stated that her main objective was to kill as many people as possible in a suicide attack on St Paul’s.

The defendant, who claimed the benefit in a police interview, admitted the conspiracy although she stated that she had not read all the allegations.

Shaikh acknowledged encouraging others to receive, read, listen to or watch terrorist publications and broadcasts through the Telegram application to motivate them to carry out terrorist acts.

Dressed in black, the ISIS terrorist spoke quietly while making his arguments before Justice Sweeney, accepting the charges. The judge ordered a pre-sentencing report before sentencing on 12 May and ordered that the defendant party, if any, would like to give a psychiatric report by 3 April.

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