Dagenham man dubbed 'Masked Menace' jailed for plotting a 'lone wolf' terror attack during lockdown

Sahayb Abu Credit: Met Police

A man from east London dubbed the Masked Menace has been jailed for at least 19 years for plotting a terror attack during the coronavirus lockdown.

Sahayb Abu, 27, bought an 18-inch sword, a knife, balaclavas and body armour online as he prepared to strike last summer.

He was arrested in July after discussing guns with an undercover police officer, who he met on a Telegram chat group for supporters of the Islamic State group.

Abu denied plotting an attack, claiming he had other plans, including becoming a successful rapper like Stormzy, who wore a stab vest on stage at Glastonbury.

But last month an Old Bailey jury found Abu guilty of preparing to engage in terrorist acts.

Clothing bought by Sahayb Abu Credit: Met Police3

His brother Muhamed Abu, 32, of Norwood, south London, was cleared of failing to tell authorities about the plot.

Several of Abu’s relatives had been linked to extremism in the past, including a brother, sister and brother in-law who were jailed for collecting and disseminating terrorist documents.

His half-brothers Wail and Suleyman Aweys joined IS in Syria in 2015, where they are both believed to have been killed.

On Tuesday, Sahayb Abu, of Dagenham, east London, was jailed for life with a minimum term of 19 years at the Old Bailey.

Sentencing Abu, Judge Mark Dennis QC told him: “You of all people, having seen what befell your two younger brothers when they signed up to join the Isis cause in 2015 and having seen the course other members of your family have taken … resulting in prison sentences, should have made you, at the mature age of 27, turn your back on the violent extremist cause and promote instead peace and community that underlies the Islamic faith.

“Instead, within weeks of your own release, you joined others committed to joining that same cause.

“Within no time you were getting ready to carry out your own act of violence on the streets of this city.

“To this date you have yet to express any remorse for your actions.”

The judge said he was satisfied that Abu had everything he needed for a “lone wolf” attack and would have carried it out but for the intervention of police.

Sahayb Abu wearing camouflaged hat and mask Credit: Met Police

He added: “All that remained for him to decide was the time and place for him to carry out the act of violence in furtherance of the cause he supported.”

Judge Dennis also commended the work of the undercover officer known as Rachid whose evidence helped convict the defendant.

The court heard Sahayb Abu had no previous terror-related convictions but had two convictions for battery in 2016 and one for possession a knife in 2017.

The same year, the Abu brothers were caught with their older half-brother Ahmed Aweys putting up poppy posters in east London saying British tax was used to “kill Muslims”.

Sahayb Abu went on to associate with known terrorists while serving two years behind bars for a commercial burglary.

On his release on March 20 last year, he went from being “locked up to locked down” as the Covid-19 pandemic struck, jurors heard.

Over the next three months, he trawled the internet for IS propaganda, including pictures of fighters in balaclavas with guns.

He spent his £400 monthly benefits on two balaclavas, body armour, gloves, a camouflage hat and two blades, including an 18in sword, paying extra to get it sharpened.

He posed in his combat gear in homemade videos sent to Muhamed Abu.

Abu boasted the balaclava would “do the job” and said he was “just waiting on the body armour … the body armour stop a bullet”.

In another disturbing rap, he described London mayor Sadiq Khan as a “sell-out” and talked about murdered soldier Lee Rigby.

He also posted extremist comments online and came to the attention of an undercover officer known as Rachid in an exclusive IS supporters’ encrypted chat group on Telegram.

The pair met twice, and during their conversation used code words “silah” and “duty free” for firearms.

On his arrest, police uncovered a black IS flag in the flat where Sahayb Abu was staying.

In his defence, Abu denied buying the sword and combat gear for a terror attack.

He dismissed extremist posts as “trolling” and claimed he joined the Telegram group to attract women with his “bravado”.

He claimed to hate IS, saying his interest in the terror group was for news of his lost half-brothers.

In mitigation, Michael Ivers QC had argued that Abu’s preparations were not far advanced and came amid various other plans.

But Judge Dennis noted that on his brother Muhamed Abu’s account, the defendant would “come up with all these ideas and never follow through”.

The “big difference” was that Sahayb Abu had “actively done things” to prepare for an attack, he said.

As he was sent down to begin his sentence, Sahayb Abu addressed the judge, saying: “Thank you very much.”