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British jihadist faces years in jail over IS membership

Mohammed Abdallah was part of group with links to Manchester bomber Salman Abedi.

Mohammed Abdallah told the court he had travelled to Syria to give money to the poor.
Mohammed Abdallah told the court he had travelled to Syria to give money to the poor. Greater Manchester Police/PA

A British jihadi whose group had links to the Manchester Arena bomber is facing years in jail for being a member of so-called Islamic State.

Mohammed Abdallah travelled to Syria with help from his brother Abdalraouf, who had set up a "hub" of communication for would-be fighters from his home in Manchester.

Mohammed Abdallah was ousted as a fighter for so-called Islamic State in 2016 after his registration documents for the terrorist organisation, which listed him as a "specialist sniper", were leaked to Sky News by a defector.

Following a trial at the Old Bailey, the 26-year-old was found guilty of possessing an AK47 gun, receiving £2,000 for terrorism, and membership of so-called Islamic State.

Suicide bomber Salman Abedi killed 22 people at Manchester Arena.
Suicide bomber Salman Abedi killed 22 people at Manchester Arena. Greater Manchester Police

The court heard how Abdallah attended Didsbury mosque, the same one attended by Salman Abedi, the suicide bomber who killed 22 people and injured more than 500 people at an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena.

What is more, Abedi, 22, reportedly used to play football with one of the men Abdallah attempted to travel to Syria with, spoke to another before bombing the arena and had connections with another.

In 2011, both Abdallah brothers - who arrived in the UK as refugees fleeing the Gaddafi regime in Libya as very young children - joined the "Tripoli Brigade" and during a bloody battle Abdalraouf was shot and paralysed from the waist down.

Jurors were shown video footage of the brothers handling heavy Russian-made machine guns on vehicles in Libya.

The Manchester Arena bombing victims.
The Manchester Arena bombing victims.

In the summer of 2014, Abdallah headed to Syria via Libya with fellow Libyan Nezar Khalifa, 27, jurors heard.

Prosecutor Mark Heywood QC said they planned to join so-called Islamic State with former RAF serviceman Stephen Gray, 34, and Raymond Matimba, 28, who were also from Manchester.

Gray was turned away in Turkey, but Matimba eventually caught up with the others and recently appeared in footage with so-called Islamic State executioner "Jihadi John" who was killed in Syria in 2015.

In 2016, Sky News received files from a defector from the proscribed organisation which listed Abdallah as a specialist sniper with expertise with the "Dushka", a Russian heavy machine gun, and fighting experience in Libya.

The record, which had the flag of so-called Islamic State in the top right-hand corner, cited Manchester recruiter Raphael Hostey, aka Abu Al-qaqa Al Britani, as a reference in Raqqa as well as a "family friend", the Libyan narrator of a so-called Islamic State entitled Demolishing Borders.

In court, Abdallah denied swearing allegiance to the extremist organisation, saying he refused and was sent to prison as a result, adding that he was also "threatened with being beheaded" and "was shot at. I was hit. I had bruises and a black eye".

Rather than travelling to Syria to join so-called Islamic State, Abdallah said he was in the war-torn country to help deliver £3,700 to the poor.

He continued that someone else must have filled out the form which listed him as a "specialist sniper" without his knowledge and that he felt "totally deceived" by the men he travelled with.

He denied knowing the man behind the Demolishing Borders video but admitted he did know Hostey through Didsbury mosque.

Emergency services at the scene of the Manchester Arena terror attack.
Emergency services at the scene of the Manchester Arena terror attack. PA

Despite Abdallah protesting that he was in Syria carrying out charitable work, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) obtained conversations on messaging apps which showed that this was not the case.

Instead, the CPS describing him as "a committed extremist who had armed himself to fight for Daesh [so-called Islamic State] and was a potential threat to all those who opposed his ideology".

Commenting on the case, Detective Chief Superintendent Dominic Scally, head of counter terrorism policing for the North West, said: "Hopefully this demonstrates that we take very seriously everybody who has travelled not just to Syria but to any area of conflict for extremist purposes.

"It's very difficult for us to tell in any detail what happens on the ground in Syria and credit to investigators that they have managed to piece together the story.

"This is the first time that we have produced the IS application forms as evidence.

"This is a very positive investigation that's helped stop others travelling out and probably returning."

Abdallah, of Westerling Way, Manchester will be sentenced on Friday.

Abdalraouf Abdallah and Gray were arrested in Manchester in November 2014.

In 2016, Abdalraouf Abdallah was found guilty of assisting others in committing acts of terrorism, and terror funding and jailed for five-and-a-half years.

Gray, of Whitnall Street in Manchester, admitted three terrorism offences, including his attempts to travel to Syria, and was jailed for five years.

Fellow Mancunian Hostey, described as an ''inspirational figure'' for would-be jihadis, left the UK in 2013 and is believed to have been killed in a drone strike in 2016.

Mohammed Abdallah's trial was delayed in the wake of the Manchester Arena attack due to the defendant's reported links with Abedi.

In addition, Abedi, 22, reportedly used to play football with Gray, spoke to Matimba before the attack and was connected with Hostey, also from Moss Side.

According to a report published on Tuesday, Abedi had been a "subject of interest" to police and the bombing could have been stopped "had the cards fallen differently".

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