A 15-year-old boy from Blackburn has been sentenced to life after encouraging a man in Australia to commit acts of terrorism at a national day of remembrance.
The teen, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was sentenced to life in a youth detention centre with a minimum of five years at Manchester Crown Court, Crown Square.
Now believed to be Britain’s youngest convicted terrorist, the boy is reported to have sent thousands of messages to an 18-year-old Australian to plan ‘a massacre’.
Messages exchanged between the pair were sent in encrypted code, but the North West Counter Terrorism Unit (NWCTU) created a specialist computer program to enable them to be read.
Detective Chief Superintendent Tony Mole from the NWCTU said: “After the information was discovered on the boy’s phone, it was clear he was encouraging another person to commit an act of terrorism and innocent lives were going to be in danger.
“A swift investigation was launched and we, alongside the relevant authorities in the UK and Australia, acted quickly.
“From the early communication we could read, it was obvious the Anzac Day memorial service was going to be a target.
“However, we did not know the specifics due to the messaging service he used contained an encryption code.
“If officers from the hi-tech unit of the NWCTU had not been able to develop a bespoke program to read the boy’s messages, it is likely someone would have been seriously injured or killed.”
On March 25, 2015, the boy, who was then 14, was initially arrested by Lancashire police after suspicions of threats to kill his teachers at school.
His Samsung mobile phone was reported to have contained extreme images, including a screen saver of ISIS militants and references to physical Jihad.
There was also internet searches for making explosires and how to create a detonator from scratch.
The boy had a message between someone called ‘llyas’ who was also discovered on a messaging service where they discussed a plan to ‘run a cop over’ at the Anzac Day parade in Melbourne on April 25, 2015.
The boy was arrested on April 2, 2015 on suspicion of preparing for an act of terrorism under Section 5 of the Terrorism Act 2006, after officers from the NWCTU were contacted.
More investigations revealed that messages between the boy and ‘llyas’ via. a messaging service were in an encrypted code and could not be read.
But the code was cracked, after an officer from NWCTU developed a specialist computer program to enable the messages to be read.
After examination, during a nine day period between March 16 and March 25, 2015, in excess of 3000 messages had been shared between ‘Illyas’, a man located in Australia.
Messages were initially started with the boy asking the man where his allegianeces were before discussing plans for the Anzac Day attack.
The boy suggested that the man should ‘break into someone’s house and get your first taste of beheading’.
The man in Australia was also given three options for the attacks, including a knife attack on police, targeting an officer with a car, and a gun attack.
Images were sent, including a replica of a knife used in the Rambo films. On the knife, the boy commented: ‘the handle is perfect for tearing through throat’.
Information was shared with police in Melbourne and following warrants on April 18, 2015, an 18-year-old man was arrested.
Officers found a knife underneath a driver’s seat after searching a nearby car.
DCS Mole added: “The chains of events are clearly disturbing and residents will be shocked that such activity can take place behind closed doors.
“However, while these investigations took place, there was no suggestion the boy was looking to target his local community or those in the UK.
“People will be understandably be shocked by the age of the boy however this should not detract from the horror of what he was planning.
“It is also a clear message that you will face prosecution, no matter how old you are.
“I want to reiterate that it is everybody’s responsibility to tackle extremism and radicalisation. It is vital communities and families contact us and bring to our attention anyone they perceive may be vulnerable or in danger of escalating towards terrorism.”
Anyone with information is urged to contact the Anti-Terrorist Hotline on 0800 789 321.
Image courtesy of Chris Phutully, with thanks.