An unnamed teenager has been found guilty of planning a terror attack at a Justin Bieber concert shortly after the Manchester Arena bombing. The British 17-year-old, who has since been diagnosed as autistic, had researched terrorist strategies and security at the venue where the concert would be held and had penned a “martyrdom letter," according to The Guardian.
“I am a soldier of the Islamic State. I have attacked Cardiff today because your government keep on bombing targets in Syria and Iraq. There will be more attacks in the future," read the letter.
Police raided the teen's home ahead of the attack. Although it's unclear how investigators disocovered the teen, it seems likely a friend of his tipped police off. They discovered a claw hammer and a gutting knife in his backpack.
Other notes the teen wrote included details about “run[ning] down the non-believers with a car” and “strik[ing] the infidels who oppose Allah in the neck."
The defendant proclaimed his innocence, saying that he had a “stupid interest in the gory” but never intended to hurt anyone. He went on to claim that he did not possess a copy of the Qur’an, did not believe in Islam, and ate ham.
“I wanted to see how easy it was for people who had an interest in terrorism to go online and get information because the police and the government are trying to crack down on terrorism and radicalisation," he claimed. "I wanted to see if it was possible, not for me but from someone else’s point of view ... I never thought about actually doing it. Even though I did carry a hammer and a knife I never thought about doing it for one minute.”
“He was drawn into it, curiosity getting the better of him,” said the defendant's lawyer, Delroy Henry.
Internet search terms used by the teen included “Justin Bieber security", “how to steal a car”, and “how to steal a car from a non-believer.”
"The offences for which he has been convicted obviously merit a significant custodial sentence," said Judge Mark Wall QC. "One of the things I will have to consider is whether there ought to be an indefinite sentence. I need as much information on him as you wish to place before me.”
“This teenager’s behaviour over many months leaves no doubt that he intended to kill and maim as many people as possible in an attack reminiscent of the incident on Westminster Bridge," said Sue Hemming of the Crown Prosecution Service. “The CPS presented overwhelming evidence that he was prepared to die for [an] extremist worldview and he will now rightly face the prospect of a substantial prison sentence.”
“This case has highlighted the ongoing concerns with young people gaining access to extremist material on the internet and how quickly that can lead to radicalisation. This individual actively sought out that material,” said DS Lee Porter of the Welsh extremism counter terrorism unit. “As he became radicalised his behaviour became a concern. Friends were aware that he was displaying extreme views and he had possession of a knife in school ... We would urge people to speak to a family member, teacher or us so that we can intervene at the earliest opportunity to keep the public safe. You will not get into trouble by reporting concerns.”
The teen will be sentenced in January.
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