London attack mirrors plot to behead Muslim soldier

Three men jailed in April had discussed targeting Royal Wootton Bassett, the town where UK troops -- both living and those killed in action -- are repatriated.

Story highlights

  • A serving British soldier is killed in London by two armed men
  • In recent years previous Islamist plots have targeted British soldiers on home soil
  • In separate case three men jailed in April had discussed targeting Wootton Bassett
  • Western town is where soldiers are repatriated after returning from Afghanistan

The attack on a soldier hacked to death on a London street has echoes of other plots on British soil in recent years.

The victim of Wednesday's attack in Woolwich was a serving soldier based at a nearby barracks, London police say, and the UK government is treating it as a suspected terrorist attack.

In 2007 four men were imprisoned over a plot to kidnap and kill a British Muslim soldier on leave and behead him in a Birmingham garage. The group's ringleader Parviz Khan intended to behead the soldier "like a pig" and release footage of the killing on the internet.

Khan was later imprisoned for life and must serve a minimum of 14 years before he will be considered for release. Three other men, Basiru Gassama, Mohammed Irfan, and Hamid Elasmar, were handed down sentences of between two and seven years for their roles in the plot.

High Court judge Mr Justice Henriques said Khan's aim was to deter any Muslim from joining the British army.

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"So rampant are your views, so excitable your temperament, so persuasive your tongue and so imbued with energy are you, it's quite impossible to predict when, if ever, it will be safe for you to be released into the public," the Guardian quoted the judge as saying.

"It was a plot whose purpose was to undermine democratic government, to demoralize the British army and to destabilize recruitment, and to cause anguish to the then prime minister of the day and the loyal citizens of the country," the judge said.

Prosecutors said Khan hoped to kidnap the Muslim soldier in Birmingham's Broad Street entertainment quarter with the help of drug dealers.

This is not the only recent example of serving soldiers being the targets of terrorist attacks. Last month three British-born men were imprisoned for between four and nine years for preparing acts of terrorism. The men, who pleaded guilty had discussed targeting Royal Wootton Bassett, a town that became a focal point for parades by UK troops returning from service in Afghanistan.

The judge, Mr. Justice Simon, said they had shown themselves to be "committed fundamentalists" ready to kill. Muslim convert Richard Dart, a former BBC security guard, and co-defandant Imran Mahmood had discussed how to make explosives, with the western English town as a potential bombing target.