A London teenager inspired by the brutal murder of a British soldier in 2013 was arrested on his way to commit a copycat attack carrying a knife, hammer and Islamic flag, prosecutors said on the first day of his trial.
Brustholm Ziamani, 19, who referred to one of the Lee Rigby killers as a “legend,” converted to Islam from Christianity last year and used social media to encourage others to “wage war against” the U.K. government as part of the “Islamic States of Ireland and Britain,” Annabel Darlow, the prosecution lawyer, said opening the trial in London Monday.
“His hatred of non-believers and interest in violent jihad began to crystallize into a plan to attack a member of the British military forces,” Darlow said.
The threat of a successful domestic attack is at the forefront of the U.K.’s counter-terrorism strategy. Cities from Ottawa to Sydney have fallen victim to attacks from radicalized Muslims in the past 12 months.
Rigby, 25, was attacked in May 2013 outside a military barracks in the Woolwich neighborhood of southeast London. Televised images of the bloodshed were transmitted around the world as police quickly called it an act of terror on British soil.
“You want war you got it British soldiers heads will be removed and burned u cannot defeat we love to die the way you love to live,” Ziamani wrote in a letter which police seized, Darlow said.
Ziamani pleaded not guilty at an earlier hearing to preparing an act of terrorism on or before Aug. 20.
U.K. police arrested record numbers of suspected terrorists in 2014 as the overall threat level was raised to severe by the government. A U.K. jihadist who traveled to Syria to join up with a group affiliated to the Islamic State was sentenced last week to 12 years in prison.
London police arrested Ziamani for a second time in August as he was walking down a street in the east of the city, Darlow said.
In prison he told a security officer that he “had been on his way to kill a British soldier,” and that he was going to “behead the soldier and hold his head up in the air so that his friend could take a photograph,” Darlow said.
Prior to his arrest, law-enforcement tried to include Ziamani in a government program known as Prevent to change the minds of people who have become radicalized.
The efforts failed and Ziamani continued to make inflammatory comments on social media encouraging others to carry out domestic attacks, Darlow said.
“This was no fantasist, but a man who had armed himself with two potentially lethal weapons and prepared himself to carry out his intention of committing an act of terrorism,” Darlow said.