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Two guilty over terror funding

December 23, 2016 3:20 pm

Two UK men have been convicted of using Syria aid convoys to funnel cash to extremists in the war zone.

The Muslim community-led convoys became unwitting vehicles for the plan to fund terrorism, the Old Bailey heard.

One of the targeted aid missions included Alan Henning, the Eccles taxi driver later kidnapped and murdered by militants from so-called Islamic State.

Syed Hoque, 37, of Stoke-on-Trent, and Mashoud Miah, 27, of east London, were both convicted of funding terrorism.

Hoque was found guilty of two charges of funding terrorism and Miah was convicted on one count by majority following a trial.

A third defendant, Huddersfield charity worker Pervez Rafiq, 46, was cleared of involvement in their plans. Mohammed Hussain, 30, of east London, was also found not guilty.

This is the first court verdict showing that some aid convoys were abused.

Both Hoque and Miah were remanded in custody. The pair are due to be sentenced on 13 January.

The outcome of the case raises questions about whether charities organising humanitarian convoys, to transport aid and medical supplies to foreign conflict zones, have the means to identify potential abuse – and whether they are capable of stopping it.

The huge aid convoys dried up amid government pressure following Alan Henning’s kidnap in December 2013 and reports that British jihadists had used them as cover.

The Old Bailey heard that Hoque’s nephew, Mohammed Choudhury, had left for Syria in early 2013 and ultimately joined the al-Nusra Front, the largest jihadist organisation in the war zone after so-called Islamic State.

Using social media, he asked Hoque for cash to buy a specialist sniper rifle and the pair discussed in detail the type of weaponry he needed.

Hoque, a former probation officer, agreed to supply £3,000 with the help of co-defendant Mashoud Miah who, in 2012 and 2013, was moving in and out of the region.

In July, the men joined a massive British aid convoy and set off to hand the cash over to the fighter.

The humanitarian mission involved 100 vehicles including ambulances and large lorries packed with supplies. There was no suggestion in the trial that the convoy’s organisers knew of the pair’s plans.

After the cash was delivered, Choudhury maintained contact with Hoque, later telling him of his desire to kill disbelievers. The court heard that Hoque replied: “No mutilating, just beheading.”