A Met Police counter-terrorism investigation, which required hundreds of thousands of text messages to be painstakingly reviewed, has led to two people being jailed for terrorism offenses.
Al-Arfat Hassan, 21, and a 17-year-old (who cannot be named for legal reasons) became friends online and bonded over their extremist views and support for Daesh.
The investigation came about as a result of Hassan being stopped under ‘Schedule 7’ powers at Heathrow Airport, which then led to officers uncovering thousands of messages revealing their terrorist and extremist mindset, and material they had been sharing.
One video Hassan had saved contained step-by-step instructions for how to commit a knife attack, and how to build an explosive device. Detectives also found evidence of Hassan having bought chemicals for such a device.
Detective Chief Superintendent Gareth Rees of the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command, said: “This case is a chilling example of two young people being radicalised, and accessing terrorist content online.
“Their activity was uncovered as a result of proactive policing and the schedule 7 powers we have to stop and speak to people coming through UK ports. These powers are an important tool that helps us identify potential terrorist activity and keep the public safe.
“The case also involved some highly skilled detective work by counter-terrorism officers at the Met, working with colleagues in the North East. We work around the clock with all our partners to tackle terrorism, but we can’t do it alone and we would urge the public to contact the police if they see or hear anything that might be linked to terrorism Your call could save lives.”
If you see or hear anything that doesn’t feel right, then report it to us via www.gov.uk/ACT or call police in confidence on 0800 789 321.
How the Investigation unfolded
Hassan’s phone was seized and analyzed after he was detained under Terrorism Act powers at Heathrow Airport in February 2022.
That analysis led to officers finding evidence that he had bought chemicals that were ingredients for an explosive device. In one self-shot mobile phone video recovered by police, he poses with bottles of the chemicals and a sword.
Detectives further discovered that Hassan, who made rap videos, was in regular contact with someone online who was a fan of his music, and who appeared to share his views. Inquiries led officers to identify this person – the co-defendant – who was 15 at the time.
A number of the messages contained videos and images of the youth – some posing with knives, and some featuring flags adopted by Daesh and other terrorist groups. Forensic analysis of both of their phones by officers revealed that they had Daesh propaganda videos either previously viewed or saved on their phones.
Specialist detectives reviewed in excess of 400,000 messages that the two had sent to each other and other people, and the case presented to the court was based on this vast amount of digital evidence collated by officers, charting how their extremist mindsets evolved.
Appearing at the Old Bailey on Friday, 2 February, Al-Arfat Hassan, 21, (06.12.02) of north London, was given an extended sentence of seven years. He will serve a minimum of five years in prison.
He was convicted of collecting information likely to be useful for terrorism (Section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000), and previously pleaded guilty to possession of chemicals for terrorism purposes (under Section 57 of the Terrorism Act 2000).
The 17-year-old was given an extended sentence of three-and-a-half years’ imprisonment, including one year on license. He admitted charges of collecting information likely to be useful for terrorism (Section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000) – namely a Daesh propaganda video – and of failing to disclose information about acts of terrorism (Section 38b of the Terrorism Act 2000) at a previous court hearing.