London: A British former Taliban fighter who sought to recruit Muslims to travel to Afghanistan and attack NATO soldiers was jailed for life on Friday by a court in England.
Pakistani-born British citizen Munir Farooqi radicalised young men in Manchester, northwest England, using an Islamic bookstall as cover before trying to persuade them to fight with the Taliban in war-torn Afghanistan.
But anti-terrorism police caught the 54-year-old ringleader and two others after infiltrating their group and carrying out a year-long undercover operation, prosecutors told Manchester Crown Court.
Farooqi told undercover police officers they could become martyrs fighting in the Afghan jihad, or holy war, the court heard. It is not known if he succeeded in persuading anyone to travel to Afghanistan.
Judge Richard Henriques on Friday handed Farooqi four life terms with a minimum of nine years in jail before he can be considered for parole, while his co-defendants were given shorter prison sentences.
"You are in my judgment a very dangerous man, an extremist, a fundamentalist with a determination to fight abroad," Henriques told Farooqi.
The father-of-three was convicted of preparing for acts of terrorism, three counts of soliciting to murder and one count of dissemination of terrorist publications.
The judge said Farooqi had used his experiences fighting with the Taliban as a "tool of recruitment" with the purpose of enlisting fighters for Afghanistan who were willing to "fight, kill and die" abroad.
"Their victims would be allied forces, including British soldiers," Henriques said, adding that Farooqi found images of coffins carrying US soldiers draped in the American flag "a source of great amusement”.
Around 140,000 foreign troops, most of them American, form the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force which is battling a Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. Withdrawals of some of the troops have begun.
Britain is the second largest troop contributor after the United States, with about 9,500 soldiers.
Farooqi was first inspired by the attacks of September 11, 2001, on the United States and within weeks had travelled to Afghanistan to fight with the Taliban against the US-led force that invaded the country, the court heard.
But he only fought in Afghanistan for several weeks before being captured and imprisoned by anti-Taliban fighters from the Northern Alliance in November 2001. He was freed within several months and returned to Britain.
On his return, Farooqi set up the Islamic bookstall in Manchester and was assisted by co-defendants Matthew Newton, a 29-year-old former British army recruit, and Israr Malik, 23.
In October 2008, he was approached by the two undercover police officers, known only as Ray and Simon.
Malik was also jailed on Friday and told he must serve a minimum of five years in prison before he is considered for parole. Newton was jailed for six years.