Safiyya Shaikh pleads guilty to plotting to bomb St Paul’s Cathedral

A female ISIS jihadi wanted to blow St Paul’s Cathedral to the ground in a Christmas Day terror attack with as many casualties as possible, the Old Bailey heard.

Safiyya Shaikh, 37, believed she would make history with the atrocity and picked the iconic cathedral to kill as many people as possible, vowing to go on a shooting spree if she did not die in the initial blast.

Shaikh claimed spreading hate online and encouraging other people to carry out terror attacks was her job, swearing allegiance to ISIS and carrying out reconnaissance for the bombing of St Paul’s.

However her plans were thwarted by counter terror agents, who had put her under surveillance and posed as extremists to learned about the plot.

Shaikh, who believed she was about to take possession of two bombs when she was arrested, had revealed in messages her zeal for causing murder and mayhem in central London, identifying Christmas or Easter for maximum casualties, and had also tested the security at St Paul’s in a dry-run.

Shaikh, who has admitted two terror offences, is at the Old Bailey today for a sentencing hearing in front of Mr Justice Sweeney.

Prosecutor Alison Morgan QC said Shaikh, from Hayes, west London, changed her name from Michelle Ramsden when she became a Muslim in 2007, and radicalised after becoming disillusioned with moderate Islam.

She ran an channel on secretive social media app Telegram, spreading hate-filled propaganda which glorified attacks in America, France, and the UK and including mocked-up images of the Statue of Liberty and the White House being blown up.

Shaikh believed she was influencing bomb threats and extremist action around the globe with her online activities, and turned her attention to carrying out a homegrown attack herself after being prevented from flying out of the UK in August last year.

The defendant engaged in a plan to commit a lethal attack on St Paul’s Cathedral with the clear stated intention of killing as many people as possible and destroy a symbolic building, said prosecutor Alison Morgan QC.

She was by then a violent extremist who pledged her support for ISIS. She visited the cathedral to assess its security arrangements and the best place to detonate a bomb.

Ms Morgan said Shaikh engaged with others who she believed to be of a similar mindset, to instigate and plan a terrorist attack involving the use of improvised explosives to attack St Paul’s Cathedral and a hotel nearby.

In furtherance of her attack plan, she visited the cathedral to assess its security arrangement and the best place to detonate a bomb.

She stated that her intention was to kill herself and as many other people as possible.

Shaikh carried out a reconnaissance trip to St Paul’s in September last year, observing how thoroughly bags were searched, suggesting she would wear her daughter’s non-Islamic clothes as a disguise and calling the plot the best opportunity of my life.

This most famous church to King and Queen. All there (sic) weddings been there hundreds of years, she told the undercover agent. “I really thought it would not be possible. But it easy.”

She added: I want do something in hotel and church. Than (sic) run and kill kuffar (non-Muslims) everywhere I see them until am shot down.

If I had choice I blow the church to ground. With kuffar in it.

Shaikh, who also mentioned poisoning people and attacking the Stock Exchange Building, also revealed her dream of attacking a high-profile church: I want to make history…I want to do that in London, you know where they do the Royal weddings. I think it may be too hard because of security.

Asked about possible timing, she said: Christmas or Easter, when churches are full. I just think it’s better. A lot of people, destroy their Christmas.

She was arrested in October last year, after providing her measurements to the undercover agent and bags for bombs.

Shaikh, from Hayes, west London, pleaded guilty to preparing terrorist acts and dissemination of terrorist publications.

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