Brusthom Ziamani

Brusthom Ziamani is a British convicted terrorist and Muslim convert.“Soldier beheading plan teenager Brusthom Ziamani jailed,” BBC News, March 20, 2015, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-31987242. He was radicalized in part by U.K.-banned Islamist group al-Muhajiroun and its founder, internationally-designated radical cleric and convicted ISIS supporter Anjem Choudary.Laura Smith-Spark, “UK teen jailed for 22 years in extremist plot to kill soldier,” CNN, March 20, 2015,  https://edition.cnn.com/2015/03/20/europe/uk-terror-ziamani-sentenced/index.html; Rebecca Camber and Sarah Smyth, “Teenage jihadi guilty of plot to behead soldier was radicalised by hate preacher in just 12 WEEKS - and tried to convert his girlfriend who liked to wear short dresses and heels,” Daily Mail, February 19, 2015, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2960872/Teenage-jihadi-guilty-plot-behead-soldier-radicalised-hate-preacher-just-12-weeks.html. On August 18, 2014, police arrested Ziamani in a joint police and MI5 intelligence operation in London, where he was found with a hammer and 12-inch knife, which he reportedly intended to use to behead a British soldier. He was found guilty of preparing an act of terrorism and sentenced to 22 years in prison in March 2015.“Soldier beheading plan teenager Brusthom Ziamani jailed,” BBC News, March 20, 2015, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-31987242. On January 9, 2020, he and inmate Baz Hockton injured three staff members at the Whitemoor high-security prison in an apparent terrorist attack, the first to occur inside a British jail. Ziamani and Hockton were found guilty of attempted murder and sentenced to life in prison in October 2020.“Whitemoor prison terror attack inmates handed life terms,” BBC News, October 8, 2020,  https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-54462241.

Ziamani was born in London to Congolese parents, who are Jehovah’s Witnesses.“Soldier beheading plan teenager Brusthom Ziamani jailed,” BBC News, March 20, 2015, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-31987242. Ziamani, who says he first became interested in Islam at the age of 15 through rap music, decided to convert in April 2014.Laura Smith-Spark, “UK teen jailed for 22 years in extremist plot to kill soldier,” CNN, March 20, 2015,  https://edition.cnn.com/2015/03/20/europe/uk-terror-ziamani-sentenced/index.html; Haroon Siddique, “London teenager Brusthom Ziamani guilty of plotting to behead soldier,” Guardian, February 19, 2015, https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/feb/19/london-teenager-brusthom-ziamani-guilty-of-plotting-to-behead-soldier. That same month, he came into contact with Anjem Choudary and his followers at Camberwell Mosque.Rebecca Camber and Sarah Smyth, “Teenage jihadi guilty of plot to behead soldier was radicalised by hate preacher in just 12 WEEKS - and tried to convert his girlfriend who liked to wear short dresses and heels,” Daily Mail, February 19, 2015, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2960872/Teenage-jihadi-guilty-plot-behead-soldier-radicalised-hate-preacher-just-12-weeks.html. Ziamani was reportedly kicked out of his house when his family discovered that he had converted to Islam.“Soldier beheading plan teenager Brusthom Ziamani jailed,” BBC News, March 20, 2015, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-31987242. Needing a place to stay, he sought help from members of Choudary’s al-Muhajiroun. According to police, Ziamani was then rapidly groomed into extremism in a matter of months, as evidenced by increasingly radical posts on his Facebook.Laura Smith-Spark, “UK teen jailed for 22 years in extremist plot to kill soldier,” CNN, March 20, 2015,  https://edition.cnn.com/2015/03/20/europe/uk-terror-ziamani-sentenced/index.html.

On June 27, 2014, police executed a search warrant unrelated to Ziamani at the location where he was staying. They discovered extremist writings among his clothes and arrested him on suspicion of committing a terror offense.R v. Mohammad Abdul Kahar and Others, Royal Courts of Justice, May 17, 2016, 18, https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/r-v-kahar-and-others.pdf. Police found that Ziamani used one of his two mobile phones to research the location of cadet and army bases in South East London. He also conducted searches on his phone for “The Souls Journey after Death in Islam” and “Jannah,” a reference to Muslim paradise.R v. Mohammad Abdul Kahar and Others, Royal Courts of Justice, May 17, 2016, 18, https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/r-v-kahar-and-others.pdf. He was released on bail the next day. In the following weeks, Ziamani was approached on three separate occasions by Prevent Engagement Officers from the U.K. government, who are tasked with mentoring and intervention in order to prevent radicalization. However, he rebuffed their efforts.R v. Mohammad Abdul Kahar and Others, Royal Courts of Justice, May 17, 2016, 18-19, https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/r-v-kahar-and-others.pdf; R v. Brusthom Ziamani, Sentencing remarks of HHJ Pontius, Judiciary of England and Wales, March 20, 2015, 1-2, https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/ziamani_sentencing.pdf.

On the morning of August 19, 2014, Ziamani went to an ex-girlfriend’s home to talk and show her his weapons, including a large hammer and a 12-inch knife. He reportedly told the witness, “Me and the brothers are planning a terrorist attack” and affirmed his desire to emulate the 2013 murder of British soldier Lee Rigby in London. He spoke to his ex-girlfriend about converting to Islam and showed her videos on his mobile phone of people being killed, whereupon she asked him to leave.R v. Mohammad Abdul Kahar and Others, Royal Courts of Justice, May 17, 2016, 19, https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/r-v-kahar-and-others.pdf. Later that day, British police arrested Ziamani, who was carrying a backpack that contained a hammer, 12-inch knife, and an Islamic flag. While searching his phone, authorities found that Ziamani used his mobile phone to research details of the 2013 murder of Lee Rigby, the terrorist perpetrators, and how to leave the country by car via the Eurotunnel. R v. Mohammad Abdul Kahar and Others, Royal Courts of Justice, May 17, 2016, 19, https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/r-v-kahar-and-others.pdf. While in police custody, Ziamani was interviewed by Paul Morris, a prison officer from a department that deals with people arrested under the U.K. Terrorism Act. Morris asked if he would like to speak with an imam attached to the prison, but Ziamani declined. Ziamani told the officer that when he was arrested, he had been on his way to military barracks to behead a soldier.R v. Mohammad Abdul Kahar and Others, Royal Courts of Justice, May 17, 2016, 19, https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/r-v-kahar-and-others.pdf.

Ziamani was inspired by the terrorist attack that killed Fusilier Lee Rigby and said he admired the perpetrators, British citizens and convicted terrorists Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale.R v. Brusthom Ziamani, Sentencing remarks of HHJ Pontius, Judiciary of England and Wales, March 20, 2015, 2, https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/ziamani_sentencing.pdf. During his trial, Ziamani revealed that he knew Adebolajo and claimed that the two had distributed Islamist leaflets at the Greenwich Islamic Center together.“Brusthom Ziamani 'said he knew Lee Rigby killer Michael Adebolajo',” BBC News, February 20, 2015, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-31371972. The trial revealed that Ziamani had downloaded an “extensive body” of extremist material of a “vile and deeply disturbing nature” and internalized radical interpretations of the Quran, a hallmark of a “fanatical Islamist terrorist.”R v. Brusthom Ziamani, Sentencing remarks of HHJ Pontius, Judiciary of England and Wales, March 20, 2015, 1, https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/ziamani_sentencing.pdf. Ziamani posted on Facebook about his hatred of authority, Shiites, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, Christians, Jews, and anyone who disagreed with his beliefs.R v. Brusthom Ziamani, Sentencing remarks of HHJ Pontius, Judiciary of England and Wales, March 20, 2015, 2,  https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/ziamani_sentencing.pdf.

On February 19, 2015, Ziamani was convicted of preparing an act of terrorism.Haroon Siddique, “London teenager Brusthom Ziamani guilty of plotting to behead soldier,” Guardian, February 19, 2015, https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/feb/19/london-teenager-brusthom-ziamani-guilty-of-plotting-to-behead-soldier. On March 20, 2015, he was sentenced to 22 years in prison, with a minimum of 14 years and eight months before he would eligible for consideration by the parole board, and an additional five-year probationary period.R v. Brusthom Ziamani, Sentencing remarks of HHJ Pontius, Judiciary of England and Wales, March 20, 2015,   https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/ziamani_sentencing.pdf. In May 2016, the Court of Appeal shortened Ziamani’s prison term to 19 years, determining that the initial 22-year custodial sentence was too long “given his youth.”Hannah Al-Otham, “Muslim convert who was jailed for plot to behead British soldier has jail term slashed,” Evening Standard, May 17, 2016, https://www.standard.co.uk/news/crime/man-who-was-jailed-for-plot-to-behead-british-soldier-has-jail-term-slashed-a3250361.html.

Ziamani’s extremist activities did not abate during incarceration. While at Woodhill prison in Milton Keynes, Ziamani defected from a group of ISIS-supporting prisoners to join a group sympathetic to al-Qaeda and even led the group in Friday prayers.Matthew Bradley, “Isis and al-Qaeda fought to control jihadist inmates,” Telegraph (UK), December 23, 2019, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/isis-and-al-qaeda-fought-to-control-jihadist-inmates-s0c0rkd2h. It is unclear at what point Ziamani was transferred, but while incarcerated at Whitemoor prison in Cambridgeshire, Ziamani obtained jihadist videos, including ISIS propaganda, and used the materials to radicalize fellow inmates. He even transcribed at least one lecture by Anwar al-Awlaki, which he passed on to other Islamists.Duncan Gardham, Matthew Bradley, and John Simpson, “Brusthom Ziamani: Terrorist watched Isis videos in jail cell,” Times (UK), October 9, 2020, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/brusthom-ziamani-terrorist-watched-isis-videos-in-jail-cell-dbpkk0tlx.

On January 9, 2020, Ziamani and fellow inmate Baz Hockton, also a Muslim convert, launched an attack on an officer in Whitemoor prison. The pair intended to lure a prison guard into a storage space, initially targeting a female officer by asking her to retrieve a spoon from the cupboard, but she refused. Ziamani then asked officer Neil Trundle, who obliged and then was attacked from behind.Daniel De Simone, “Whitemoor prison terrorist attackers 'known to be dangerous',” BBC News, October 7, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-54457605. Ziamani and Hockton brandished makeshift weapons and wore fake suicide belts, at one point shouting, “Allahu Akbar.”“HMP Whitemoor inmates 'wore fake suicide belts in officer attack',” BBC News, September 22, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-54251086. Trundle suffered cuts to the head and neck and two other prison staff were injured before multiple officers arrived and subdued the inmates.Martin Evans, “Two prisoners wearing fake suicide belts stabbed guard in ‘terrorist attack’, court hears,” Telegraph, September 22, 2020, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/09/22/two-prisoners-wearing-fake-suicide-belts-stabbed-guard-terrorist/.

Ziamani denied the murderous intent of the incident, insisting it was an attempt for him to be moved to another jail.“HMP Whitemoor murder bid accused 'wanted to move jails',” BBC News, October 1, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-54379193. However, during Ziamani’s sentencing, the judge maintained that the intent was clear and the defendants had planned the operation for a significant amount of time, made apparent by the preparation of fake suicide belts and multiple weapons.“Whitemoor prison terror attack inmates handed life terms,” BBC News, October 8, 2020,  https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-54462241. The judge noted the significance of the attack in the maximum security prison, coming just weeks after the November 2019 London Bridge attack, during which former Whitemoor inmate Usman Khan killed two people.Lizzie Dearden, “HMP Whitemoor attack: Jailed terror plotter given life sentence for launching Isis-inspired attack inside high-security prison,” Independent, October 8, 2020, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/terror-attacks-uk-hmp-whitemoor-prison-ziamani-hockton-isis-b886348.html. Ziamani was also found with a four-page “martyrdom note” in his pocket during the January 2020 attack.Duncan Gardham, Matthew Bradley, and John Simpson, “Brusthom Ziamani: Terrorist watched Isis videos in jail cell,” Times (UK), October 9, 2020, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/brusthom-ziamani-terrorist-watched-isis-videos-in-jail-cell-dbpkk0tlx.

On October 7, 2020, Ziamani and Hockton were found guilty of attempted murder.“Two guilty of HMP Whitemoor terrorist attack on prison officer,” BBC News, October 7, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-54449183. The following day, both were sentenced to life in prison, extending their previous custodial terms. Ziamani, who would have been eligible parole in 2027, must serve at least 21 more years before being considered.“Whitemoor prison terror attack inmates handed life terms,” BBC News, October 8, 2020,  https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-54462241.

Also Known As

Extremist entity
Al-Muhajiroun
Type(s) of Organization:
Islamist, transnational, religious, political
Ideologies and Affiliations:
Islamist, jihadist, Salafist
Position(s):
Terrorist

  • Rhetoric
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