Safiyya Shaikh: Female Isis supporter jailed for life over plot to bomb St Paul’s Cathedral

A female Isis supporter who plotted to bomb St Paul’s Cathedral and other London targets has been jailed for life.

Safiyya Amira Shaikh, a Muslim convert who was formerly known as Michelle Ramsden, asked online contacts to fit out two bags with explosives.

But the people she believed were helping her prepare for the attack were undercover police officers posing as a married jihadi couple, and she was arrested in October before the plot could be carried out.

The 37-year-old mother, from Hayes in west London, told police she had been inspired by Isis bombings that killed almost 300 people in Sri Lanka.

The attackers struck churches and hotels on Easter Sunday 2019, and Shaikh said she wanted to mount her own attack at either Easter or Christmas, the holiest Christian festivals.

She had drafted a pledge of allegiance to Isis on a pink post-it note, which she shared with an undercover officer, and was considering making a video to be released after her martyrdom.

Shaikh was jailed for life with a minimum term of 14 years for the attack plot, and given a concurrent eight-year prison sentence for disseminating terrorist publications.

Sentencing her on Friday, Mr Justice Sweeney said she planned the bombing after being prevented from travelling to meet a fellow Isis supporter in the Netherlands, and previously from joining the caliphate in Syria.

You decided you could take better revenge in this country for what the kuffar [disbelievers] had done,he added.

You identified St Paul’s Cathedral as the place you would like to target, saying you wanted a lot of people to die, that it was the best opportunity of your life … you planned to kill as many people as possible and destroy the cathedral in the process.

The Old Bailey heard that Shaikh planned to stay at a hotel near St Paul’s and plant a bomb there hidden inside a pink holdall.

She would then go to the cathedral wearing a rucksack containing another bomb, which she would leave there, and a suicide vest.

Shaikh told undercover officers she wanted to detonate the hotel and cathedral bombs remotely, before going to a Tube station and blowing herself up.

The would-be terrorist initially said she wanted to use a gun but was not able to obtain one, and handed the female undercover officer two bags to load with explosives.

I would like bomb [sic] and shoot til death, she wrote in online messages. But if that not possible I do other way. Belt or anything. I just want a lot to die. Inshallah [God willing].

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

Shaikh carried out hostile reconnaissance at St Paul’s Cathedral in September, sending a photo taken underneath its famous dome to an undercover officer with the caption: Under this dome I would like to put bomb. It centre of church.

Shaikh said there was little attention from security during her visit, which lasted around an hour, telling an undercover officer: I really thought it would not be possible. But it easy.

She pleaded guilty to the preparation of terrorist acts and dissemination of terrorist publications.

Shaikh was the main operator of an Isis supporters’ channel called Greenb1rds on the encrypted Telegram app, which called for attacks around the world.

She gloated to undercover officers about how posters she had made were reported by mainstream news outlets, and was making arrangements for someone to take over the channel after her death.

She occasionally posed as a man on Telegram so that jihadis would be more likely to engage with her, she said.
Police started investigating Shaikh after they prevented her from flying to Amsterdam to meet the wife of a so-called martyr in August, and seized her electronic devices at Luton Airport.

Commander Richard Smith, head of the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command, said officers launched an undercover police operation afer discovering her role in the Greenb1rds channel.

We identified not only was she creating and sharing horrific terrorist material, but she was also planning an attack on UK soil, he added.

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