Previously acquitted UK man convicted of terror attack plan

An undated handout picture released by the British Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) on July 9, 2020 shows Mohiussunnath Chowdhury posing for his custody photograph. (AFP)
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Updated 09 July 2020

Previously acquitted UK man convicted of terror attack plan

  • Chowdhury was found guilty in February of planning to target popular attractions in London

LONDON: A former Uber driver cleared of planning a terror attack at Buckingham Palace was on Thursday jailed for life after plotting a gun and knife rampage at London tourist sites.
Mohiussunnath Chowdhury was found guilty in February of planning to target popular attractions, including the annual gay Pride march last year using a gun, knife and van.
The 29-year-old was arrested before he could carry out the attack after he unknowingly revealed his plans to undercover police.
Covert officers posing as like-minded extremists befriended and monitored Chowdhury after a jury cleared him in December 2018 of slashing police with a sword outside Queen Elizabeth II’s London residence.
Chowdhury, from Luton, north of London, had shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is greater) during the incident, but convinced jurors he only wanted to be killed by police and had no intention to hurt anyone.
However, little more than a year later a separate subsequent trial found Chowdhury guilty of the new terror plans, after hearing he was driven by “dreams of martyrdom.”
He began posting extremist messages online within a week of his release from prison, and bragged to undercover officers about deceiving the jury which had cleared him.
During a five-month surveillance operation, officers learned he was planning to attack attractions including the Madame Tussauds waxwork museum, an open-top sightseeing bus as well as the London Pride event.
He was arrested three days before the parade last year and sentenced at Woolwich Crown Court in southeast London.
Jailing for him life, with a minimum term of 25 years, judge Andrew Lees said he was satisfied Chowdhury was “dangerous” and posed “a significant risk to members of the public of serious harm.”
“The danger that you present is ongoing, it’s not possible to say when that danger will abate,” he added.


Kabul assembly to decide fate of last Taliban inmates

Updated 07 August 2020

Kabul assembly to decide fate of last Taliban inmates

  • The 400 inmates still in government custody have been at the center of a dispute that is delaying peace
  • A prisoner swap between the Taliban and Kabul was a major part of the February agreement signed by the US and the militants in Qatar

KABUL: President Ashraf Ghani on Friday inaugurated a traditional grand assembly, the Loya Jirga, to help decide whether the last 400 Taliban prisoners held by Kabul should be freed as part of a historic peace deal between the US and the militants. 
The 400 inmates still in government custody have been at the center of a dispute that is delaying peace in the war-torn country.
A prisoner swap between the Taliban and Kabul was a major part of the February agreement signed by the US and the militants in Qatar.
The exchange should have taken place in early March and be immediately followed by talks to decide the future of Afghanistan’s political system, including the creation of an interim government.
“Today, we have gathered here to discuss what is our interest in the talks and the ultimate price of peace. Now is the time for making a major decision,” Ghani told the assembly of over 3,200 delegates in Kabul. 
“The Taliban have committed that after the freedom of their 400 prisoners, they will begin official talks with our delegation,” he said. “But at the same time, they have also warned that if the prisoners are not freed, they will not only continue the violence, but also increase it.” 
The Qatar agreement stipulated that the Afghan government would first release up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners and the militants would free about 1,000 national security personnel. Ghani’s government, which was not part of the Qatar accord, initially refused to free the militants. 
However, under pressure from Washington, Kabul has freed more than 4,600 Taliban inmates. But it is refusing to free the remaining 400 who, it said, had been behind major crimes and attacks.   
After Eid Al-Adha prayers last week, Ghani announced he would summon the Loya Jirga, a traditional council to reach consensus among Afghanistan’s rival tribes, factions and ethnic groups.
Delegates are expected to announce their decision in three days. 
As Ghani spoke, a woman delegate stood and voiced her opposition to the release of the remaining Taliban inmates, saying that it would be “national treason.” 
The meeting has been held under tight security and parts of Kabul are under lockdown. 
Many of Afghanistan’s political and tribal leaders, including former President Hamid Karzai, were absent from the assembly.   
Meanwhile, the Taliban accused Ghani of blocking the start of negotiations.  
The US special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said the Kabul assembly was a historic “opportunity for peace” and “must be seized by all sides.”