AWAITING SENTENCING: Zakaria Boufassil and Mohammed Ali Ahmed will be handed prison terms after being convicted of terrorism-related charges
A man has been convicted of funding terrorism after handing over cash to a Brussels bomb suspect.
Zakaria Boufassil was convicted following a trial at Kingston Crown Court where the jury heard details of how he, together with Mohammed Ali Ahmed, arranged and carried out a meeting with Brussels bomb suspect Mohammed Abrini in a Small Heath park.
Between 9th and 16th July 2015, £3,000 cash was handed over by the pair who knew the money could or would be used to fund terrorism.
At an earlier hearing, Ahmed pleaded guilty to the charge against him - engaging in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism, contrary to Section 5 of the Terrorism Act 2006 - and is currently awaiting sentence.
Abrini − who is in custody having been charged with murder following the Brussels airport attack in March 2016 - had travelled to London on 9th July 2015 where he then journeyed to Birmingham.
The £3,000 cash was withdrawn from a bank account belonging to 32-year-old Belgian national Anwar Haddouchi who is believed to be fighting in Syria for Daesh.
Haddouchi previously lived in Small Heath and was known to Boufassil’s sister and her husband, who had been looking after his affairs in the UK.
Ahmed, aged 27 from Coventry Road, Small Heath, and Boufassil, aged 26 from Coventry Road, Small Heath, were arrested on 14th and 15th April this year by officers from the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit.
Before Abrini travelled to the UK, he flew to Istanbul and was then smuggled into Syria where he met Abdelhamid Abaaoud - Abaaoud is believed to have been the mastermind of the Paris attacks and was killed days later by armed officers in France.
During the meeting with Abaaoud, they talked about battles Abaaoud had taken part in and how Abrini’s brother had died whilst fighting. Abaaoud instructed Abrini to travel to Birmingham to collect some money.
Following the cash handover, 31-year-old Abrini then exchanged the money for another currency and returned with it to Belgium on 16th July.
When the Belgian Police seized Abrini’s phone in July 2015, an image of Small Heath Park was found.
ACC Marcus Beale, Counter Terrorism Lead for West Midlands Police, said: “The conviction of these two men is significant for the UK as it identified a dangerous link to Abrini and Abaaoud.
“Their conviction sends a clear message to those who fund terrorism that they will be prosecuted and potentially face lengthy prison sentences.”
SHOPPING CENTRE ON HIGH ALERT: A suspect wearing a fake suicide belt was detained at the scene(pic credit: @Will90lfc’s Twitter)
Brussels in lockdown after phoney terrorist sparks chaos
Brussels was once again in high alert after a terror suspect sparked a false bomb alert after strapping a device full of 'salt and biscuits' around his waist.
Belgians have feared a terrorist attack since November, in the wake of the massacres in Paris that killed 130 people, with extra police and military mobilised.
The capital of Belgium is also still reeling from attacks on 22nd March, when Deash bombers targeted a Brussels airport and subway, killing 32 people.
Police descended on the City2 Shopping Mall in the heart of the city and taped off surrounding roads, while five underground stations were also in lock down.
A suspect was detained at the scene and armed police were called in amid reports he told officers he was wearing a bomb vest.
Belgian authorities now say the man was not carrying explosives.
Ine Van Wymersch, spokeswoman for the Brussels prosecutors' office later said the suspect 'is being questioned at the moment' and added 'there were no explosives’.
The incident comes a week after anti-terrorism investigators were alerted to the possibility that small groups of Daesh extremists had left Syria for France and Belgium with plans to stage attacks, including inside shopping malls.
Belgian authorities have also charged three men with 'attempted terrorist murder' after raiding dozens of homes linked to a reported threat to fans during a Euro 2016 football game.
PEACE VIGIL: Bradford West MP, Naz Shah, lit candles with young and old members of the public to remember the victims of recent terror and religiously motivated attacks
Men, women and children gathered in Bradford earlier this week, to pay their respects to the victims of a host of recent attacks which have rocked the eastern and western world.
From Europe to Asia, bomb blasts have been carried out by extremist groups as the world continues to fight against global terror, and the need for a united population grows ever more important.
A candlelit peace vigil was staged in Centenary Square, Bradford, on Tuesday 29th March, as faith and community leaders united with members of the public in a stand of solidarity.
Speaking on the day was Bradford West MP, Naz Shah.
Organised by the community for the community, Ms Shah paid respects to the victims of the terror attacks and the killing of a Glasgow shopkeeper in a religiously motivated attack.
She said: “Whether it is terrorism, whether it is an individual act, whatever it is, the fact is that all the violence that we have seen in the past month, the past few years, is an enormous tragedy.
MINUTE OF SILENCE: The crowd fell silent for a moment of reflection
“I thank all the faith leaders for their attendance. It is not about religion, caste or creed, it is about humanity.
“It is about us saying we are humans first and we have shared values regardless of our backgrounds. That is the absolute key message we need to share today.”
She added: “Today we come together as one. What is really important is that no individual led today. It has been led by the community of Bradford and organised by us. It is not something I have arranged, not the Council for Mosques or the city council, it is something we as the public of Bradford wanted and something we have all together delivered.”
As well as paying respects to the victims of recent bomb blasts in Lahore, Pakistan, and Brussels, Belgium, those in attendance were also reminded of the death of Glasgow shopkeeper, killed by a Bradford man in what was described as a ‘religiously prejudiced attack’.
Representatives from the Bradford Council for Mosques were in attendance and condemned the actions of all assailants, in the UK and overseas.
CANDLE OF HOPE: A mother and her child share a candle at the vigil
In a statement, they said: “[For the Majority] of us, who unreservedly desire and aspire for peace and harmony for all, the past week has been painfully difficult.
“There can be no justifications for these cowardly acts of murder,” adding, “our heartfelt condolences go to victims and their families of all and stand in unity with their families and friends.”
Of the shopkeeper’s murder, they continued: “The religiously motivated attack on Asad Shah in Glasgow is of enormous importance and relevance to us in Britain.
“This is a blatant attack on the right of an individual to hold and practice his beliefs. None of us should live in fear of violent retribution from those of different beliefs and convictions.
“This is a sinister act of callous violence and therefore it needs to be condemned for what it is.”
INTER-FAITH EVENT: Faith leaders from the city were represented at the event, pictured is Rabi Rudi Leavor
Timeline of tragedy
RESPECT: Three days of mourning were declared after the Brussels attacks
On Tuesday 22nd March, the Belgian capital of Brussels was rocked by a series of blasts as suicide bombers targeted the city’s airport and metro station.
Thirty-two people died and over 300 were injured in the attack of which extremist group, Daesh, claimed responsibility.
Following the attacks three days of mourning were declared by the Belgian government.
Meanwhile, security at airports, train stations and other transport hubs have been increased in cities around the world as the threat of terror attacks heightens in Western nations.
RELIGION: Asad Shah was allegedly attacked because of his religious beliefs
Asad Shah, an Ahmadi Muslim from Glasgow, was attacked outside his convenience shop on Thursday 24th March, in what police described as a ‘religiously prejudiced attack’.
The 40-year-old was rushed to Queen Elizabeth University Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival after being found with serious injuries.
Tanveer Ahmed, 32, from Toller in Bradford, has since appeared in court, charged with the murder of Mr Shah, where he did not enter a plea.
Since Mr Shah’s death, an online fundraising page has been set up for his family, with over £100,000 donated so far, whilst a peace vigil near the site of the attack was attended by hundreds, including First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon.
Lahore Easter attacks
TRAGIC: Women and children were amongst those killed in the Lahore bombing (pic credit: YouTube)
Sixty-nine people were killed and many more injured following an explosion at a public park in Lahore, Pakistan, on Sunday 27th March.
Children and women were among the victims in the attack, as families, many of whom were Christian, packed into the Gulshan-e-Iqbal public park.
A Pakistan Taliban faction claimed responsibility for the attack which the Pakistan president, Mamnoon Hussain condemned, as the regional government announced three days of mourning.
It was a suicide bomb that caused the many fatalities, with the blast reportedly occurring near to the main gates.
RESPECT: A minute of silence was observed in Brussels the day after the attacks
Prime Minister chairs COBRA meeting in response to terrorist attacks
As the world continues to recover from the latest Daesh terror attacks on European soil, Prime Minister David Cameron has held an emergency COBRA meeting as security is ramped up in the UK.
Thirty-one people died and 260 others were injured, after two blasts rocked the Belgian capital on the morning of Tuesday 22nd March.
RESOLVE: Home Secretary Theresa May says we must stand united in the face of terrorism
Twin blasts hit the city's Zaventem airport at about 7am before another explosion was seen at the Maelbeek metro station, near EU headquarters, an hour later.
Four Britons were killed and another remains missing.
A Downing Street spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister has chaired a further COBRA meeting this morning on the Brussels attacks.
“We are concerned about one missing British national and we are in close contact with the Belgian authorities. We are aware of four British nationals who were injured in the attacks – three are being treated in hospital, one has already been discharged.
“Our embassy staff are working to assist all British nationals affected.
“In terms of travel advice, we continue to advise people to follow the advice of the Belgian authorities.
“Therefore we are no longer advising against travel to Brussels. British nationals in Belgium should remain alert and vigilant, stay away from crowded places, and follow the instructions of the Belgian authorities.
“Here in the UK, we stepped up the security presence at a number of locations across the country yesterday and we will maintain this in the coming days. The national threat level remains at ‘severe’ (an attack is highly likely) and the public are advised to be ‘alert but not alarmed’.”
Two of the men who carried out suicide attacks have been named as brothers, Khalid and Brahim el-Bakraoui, whilst terror group, Daesh, has claimed it was behind the bombings.
Home Secretary Theresa May says the UK and its allies must now work with ‘greater urgency and joint resolve’ to defeat terrorism.
She told MPs Britain must do more to support ‘vulnerable’ countries and to counter the ‘poisonous and repugnant’ ideology of Daesh.
SUSPECTS: The three suspected terrorists can be seen in CCTV footage from the airport
Speaking from Westminster, Keighley and Ilkley MP Kris Hopkins said: “I share the sense of outrage and horror following the heinous acts of terrorism in Brussels.
“On behalf of the people of Keighley and Ilkley, I wish to express sympathy to the families of those who lost their lives and absolute support for the many who have been injured.
“The evil individuals behind these cowardly attacks want to destroy our way of life. But they have underestimated us and will not prevail.”
CONVOY: The SKT Welfare team distributed goods to refugee camps in France and Belgium
Yorkshire convoy return from the Jungle
A convoy of ten fully-loaded vans set off from Bradford to France last weekend as 35 volunteers made the 300-mile journey over the English Channel to distribute aid to refugees.
The team, representing the SKT Welfare Charity, drove to the Grand-Synthe Refugee Camp in Dunkirk, where over 300 fleeing people are currently staying in cramped conditions.
Distributing food, clothes, blankets, sleeping bags, tents and other essential items, the team met with Syrian and Iraqi refugees and witnessed the ‘shocking’ accommodation, some were living in.
Makeshift tents were propped up with cardboard boxes and pallets, whilst wind blew through the sheets.
With winter months coming up, the distribution team also delivered ‘winter warmer packs’ – including hats, gloves and warm clothing, to fight against the cold.
AID: The Little Brussels Camp was visited by the group on their three-day aid mission
Food items were also delivered in Dunkirk to the Al-Salam Charity’s warehouse, where a French team of volunteers will cook and distribute the goods to two refugee camps in the region.
During the three-day trip, the SKT Welfare team also drove over to Brussels, Belgium, after hearing of further Syrian refugees who were in need of ‘urgent help’ in a separate camp.
Upon arrival at the Maximillian Park Refugee Camp, the team once again witnessed crowds in huge number with almost 1,000 refugees from middle-eastern and African countries.
Once again, food, winter warmer and aid packs were handed out before the team visited the smaller ‘Little Castle Refugee Centre’ to complete their aid mission.
Worldwide figures suggest that the number of refugees currently stands at over 50million for the first time.
Syria, which has been at the centre of much news in recent years, has seen more than four-million refugees flee, with 12.8 million people still in urgent need of humanitarian assistance inside the country.