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The Would-Be Mass Murderer: How Haroon Syed’s Story Reminds Us To Remain Vigilant

The news this week that British terror attack plotter Haroon Syed has been jailed for life highlights the vital vigilance we all need to employ to protect young people from radicalisation.

Syed, from Hounslow, is just 19-years-old. He is starting a life sentence – a minimum of 16-and-a-half years – for preparing acts of terrorism. These acts of terrorism include his attempts to obtain a nail bomb and a machine gun, and his online searches for ‘packed places in London’, as well as details of a Hyde Park concert by Elton John.

It is a sad and preventable waste of a young life. But it could have been far worse – had Syed been successful in his brutal mass murder plot, it would likely to have been a horrific attack and destroyed many innocent lives.

During the court hearing it was reported that Syed’s behaviour had begun to noticeably change in late 2014, around the same time that Daesh’s twisted ideology was spreading online through the banned group Al-Muhajiroun. He had showed an interest in the fighting in Syria and had even searched the web to try and discover whether committing mass murder could be justified within the eyes of God.

Syed’s legal representatives described him as “highly vulnerable due to family history, lack of education, addiction to violent online games and the arrest and imprisonment of his brother”. Haroon Syed’s brother, Nadir Syed, had already been radicalised and was jailed for life in 2016 for plotting to behead a Londoner around the time of Remembrance Sunday in 2014. Both were examples of vulnerable young men who had fallen under the influence of Al-Muhajiroun.

It appears that the signs of radicalisation were there. Haroon Syed’s story bears the hallmarks we have seen before where Daesh has preyed on our children whom they deem vulnerable. Syed’s character and behaviour were changing. Bradford imam Alyas Karmani, who is an expert in deradicalisation, told the court during Syed’s trial that there should have been earlier intervention.

FAST has created a guide to spotting the signs of radicalisation. We fully understand that there are many paths to radicalisation, and that spotting the signs is not an exact science. However, our experience of working with countless families who this has happened to has shown us that there are some factors and behaviours that are commonly found in those, like Haroon, who may have been exposed to extremist ideas. That’s why FAST offers support on finding help if you are concerned.

We also offer close support to families going through challenging times by providing a non-judgmental helping hand and guidance. Where required, we match you with a professionally trained person or agency to deal with your matter, including scholars, advisors and local council departments. Get in touch with us if any of these issues affect you.

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