UK’s first female suicide bomb plotter jailed over sick St Paul’s attack plan | Sunday Observer

UK’s first female suicide bomb plotter jailed over sick St Paul’s attack plan

St Paul’s Cathedral, London
St Paul’s Cathedral, London

Safiyya Amira Shaikh, 37 - born Michelle Ramsden - wanted to “blow St Paul’s Cathedral to the ground”. She smiled and raised her index finger, widely recognised as an Islamic State salute, as she was led from court after sentencing

An ISIS supporter who wanted to “blow St Paul’s Cathedral to the ground” in a terror attack to kill “a lot” of innocent people has been jailed today for a minimum of 14 years.

Safiyya Amira Shaikh, a 37-year-old mother, smiled and raised her index finger, widely recognised as an Islamic State salute, as she was led from court after sentencing.


Safiyya Amira Shaikh

She has been described as the first female British jihadi to plot a suicide bombing and was on course to become the UK’s first female homegrown suicide bomber.

Heroin user Shaikh has never expressed regret or remorse for her actions, and had planned to leave a bomb at the London landmark before detonating her suicide vest on an Underground train moments later, police said.

She admitted preparation of terrorist acts and dissemination of terrorist publications at a hearing at the Old Bailey in February.

And she wanted innocent people to die even after she was dead, a senior police officer said.

Shaikh had sent chilling messages as her plot was thwarted by two undercover police officers posing as husband and wife extremists.

She said in a police interview that her plan was to carry out a suicide bombing like the 2019 Easter Sunday terror attack in Sri Lanka, in the hope of gaining access to heaven.

In that attack, suicide bombers killed at least 253 people and injured some 500 others at churches and luxury hotels.

Shaikh, from Hayes, west London, made contact with someone who she thought could build two bombs, and went on a reconnaissance trip in London to scope out the cathedral for security and the “best place” to plant an explosive device.

‘Her intention was to kill herself and as many other people as possible,’ a court heard.

Shaikh met with a contact and gave two bags to a woman “with the intention and belief that explosive devices would be fitted into the bags”.

However, the contact was an undercover anti-terror police officer.

Shaikh had been flagged up by the Metropolitan Police and MI5 as a potentially dangerous terrorist, prompting the undercover operation.

During a sentencing hearing at the Old Bailey on Monday, prosecutor Alison Morgan QC described Shaikh as “a violent extremist who pledged her support for Islamic State”.

Ms Morgan said: “She engaged with others, who she believed to be of a similar mindset, to instigate and plan a terrorist attack involving the use of improvised explosives to attack St Paul’s Cathedral and a hotel nearby.

“In furtherance of her attack plan, she visited the cathedral to assess its security arrangement and the best place to detonate a bomb.

“She stated that her intention was to kill herself and as many other people as possible.”

The court heard she confessed online: “I would like bomb (sic) and shoot till death.

“But if that not possible I do other way. Belt or anything. I just want a lot to die. InshaAllah.”

She said the plot was the “best opportunity of my life”, and described to the undercover officer how she could borrow her daughter’s non-Islamic clothes in an effort to avoid suspicion.

She also said she was going to kill and “to do a piece of history”.

Shaikh was born Michelle Ramsden and converted to Islam in 2007 after being impressed by the kindness of her Muslim neighbours, the BBC previously reported.

But she later became isolated and apparently rejected mainstream Islam, and began to court the ideology of ISIS.

By 2016, she stopped visiting mosques because she feared worshippers and imams were concerned about her extremist views.

The court heard that Shaikh travelled to central London on September 7 2019, ready to attend morning prayers at St Paul’s the next day in order to scope out security protocol and work out how to carry out her plan, with the ultimate aim of achieving martyrdom.

Shaikh said there was little attention from security during her reconnaissance visit, which lasted around an hour, telling the undercover officer: “This most famous church to King and Queen. All there (sic) weddings been there hundreds of years.

“I really thought it would not be possible. But it easy.”

She added: “I want do something in hotel and church. Than (sic) run and kill kuffar (non-Muslims) everywhere I see them until am shot down.

“Is this possible. And to get weapons.

“If I had choice I blow the church to ground. With kuffar in it.”

Shaikh prepared the words of a pledge of allegiance to the Islamic State terror group, also known as Daesh, between August 2019 and October 2019.

She also shared terrorist documents via groups using the encrypted Telegram messaging app over the same period.

Shaikh’s defence team previously said she had “doubts” over the plot, however yesterday, a court heard that she did not go ahead with the sick plan as she was ‘too stoned’.

The hearing had previously been told that she did not go ahead with it as she got “cold feet”.

But the court was told this was not true and she had said to a friend she “was going to go through with it”.

The former company director told her friend in a prison call from HMP Bronzefield she was lying when she previously told her lawyers she got cold feet.

“I just feel this is a lie,” she said in the call.

“I will be honest with you. I did not get cold feet. I am going to be honest with you, I was going to go through with it.

“I was not having doubts. The reason why I did not turn up on the day is that I was doing drugs.

“I would have arranged another appointment with them. That day I just did not wake up in time.

“I just needed to say the truth. I feel like this was all just a big lie to go in the court.”

Her lawyers claim she was never going to carry out the attack and had been trying to make friends.

She wept as her defence counsel Ben Newton described her “life of pain and loneliness”, and disclosed she suffered a “truly traumatic childhood”.

Sentencing Shaikh to life with a minimum term of 14 years at the Old Bailey on Friday, Mr Justice Sweeney said: “I had already reached the sure conclusion in the original evidence that your claim of doubt to the police and others was a lie.

“Your intention had been - and remained throughout - strong.”

Shaikh, who sat in the dock wearing a black hijab with her head bowed, showed little emotion as the sentence was read out.

She smiled and raised her index finger - widely recognised as an Islamic State salute - to members of the press as she was led from court after sentencing.

Commander Richard Smith, head of the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command, said: “She loved watching graphic videos of terrorist killings and her mission ... was to inspire others to fight, even after she hoped to have died in a suicide attack.

“She was so serious about her propaganda work, she wanted to ensure it would continue even after she had died.

“Shaikh was clearly dangerous. She was spreading vile directives for mass murder across the world and also planning her own horrific terrorist attack on UK soil.”

– Mirror.co.uk

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