Radical transformation of Manchester couple convicted of terror plot

By Jonathan Kalmus, July 26, 2012
Sajid and Shasta Khan on honeymoon in Turkey

Sajid and Shasta Khan on honeymoon in Turkey

“I wouldn’t hurt anybody,” screamed the diminutive woman taken to the cells below Manchester Crown Court to begin an eight-year sentence for terrorism.

Shasta Khan, 38, a hairdresser from Oldham, had been found guilty of planning to blow up Jews in Manchester.

She and husband, Mohammed Sajid Khan, 33, became Britain’s first married couple to be convicted of terrorist offences.

With their toxic collection of jihadi videos showing beheadings and radical speeches, the Khans had begun assembling the ingredients for a bomb while trawling Jewish neighbourhoods in north Manchester for likely targets.

Mrs Khan used her hairdressing salon as a cover for the couple’s activities, even using peroxide as an explosive ingredient.

When police raided their house in Oldham, they found an Aladdin’s cave of spoils from their shopping trips.

Everyday products were modified. A detonator circuit had been improvised from Christmas lights. A pan was found, thick with residue that police say was the beginnings of a volatile explosive.

Why did Mrs Khan turn her husband in to the police? She claimed it was because she was not a jihadist, but a citizen doing her duty.

She was making a stand against an abusive, threatening man who slept with a dagger under his pillow, and brought a machine gun into their home.

The pair had sat in a synagogue car park watching Jews enter and leave. Mr Khan was said to have told her: “We must kill them all”.

She had told the court: “I just let him ramble on."

The mystery is how the pair were radicalised so quickly. Honeymoon pictures from August 2010 showed them sunbathing on a boat in Turkey. He was clean-shaven, wearing shorts and T-shirt. She had bare arms and was in Western dress.

But just weeks later, back in the UK, they were in full Islamic dress: Sajid Khan with a beard, long hair and a crocheted skullcap, Shasta Khan in long black dress and black hijab.

This was an “incredible transformation” which did not make sense, defence barrister Simon Drew QC suggested.

During the trial, Mr Khan was depicted as a “calculating” and already radicalised man who had “hunted” Mrs Khan on the dating website, Single Muslim. She was to be his cover for terror activity.

In events leading up to the couple’s arrest, Mr Khan sent his wife a text saying he would leave her. But only a minute later, he logged on to the same Muslim dating website to look for another victim wife to radicalise, it was claimed.

Sentencing, Mr Justice Wilkie told Sajid Khan: “I am satisfied that not before too long, you would have been in a position to launch potentially deadly attack”.

He told Shasta Khan that she was naive, but added: “Your house was awash with extremist Islamic propaganda. Sajid was taking no steps to hide this from you.

“He was watching it lying in bed, night after night, without earphones, while you massaged his feet. On your computer there was research for arms and dangerous chemicals and it contained a range of explicit jihadi supporting materials. You were party to all of this. ”

Mrs Khan was convicted of making preparations for a terrorist attack together with her husband, and
two charges of possessing terrorist manuals.

Her husband had already pleaded guilty to preparing acts of terrorism. He was sentenced to an indefinite jail term, to serve at least seven years and six months before being eligible for parole.

    Last updated: 11:19am, July 26 2012