How MI5 spooks posed as ISIS top dog to stop terror plot

How MI5 spooks posed as ISIS top dog to stop Britain’s first all-female terror plot: Spies duped 17-year-old jihadi bride by pretending to be her husband’s commander after he was blown up in a drone strike in Syria

  • Safaa Boular part of Britain’s first all-women terrorist cell with mother and sister  
  • She was trained online by her fiancée Naweed Hussain who joined ISIS in 2015 
  • He died before they ever met but convinced her to plan attacks on tourist spots 
  • MI5 spies then posed as his commander to continue talking to Boular 

MI5 spies posed as an ISIS commander to trick Britain’s youngest female terrorist into discussing a plot to attack London tourist hotspots.

Safaa Boular, 18, was yesterday found guilty of planning a machine gun and grenade assault on the British Museum and the MI6 headquarters as part of an all-female ‘hit squad’ alongside her mother Mina Dich, sister Rizlaine, 22, and family friend Khawla Barghouthi, 21.

Boular had been radicalised online by British Pakistani national Naweed Hussain, who joined ISIS in Syria in June 2015 and urged her to commit atrocities in the UK before marrying her in an internet ceremony when she was 16. 

Hussain, whom Boular had never met, died in a drone strike last year but had previously spoken to MI5 officers posing as eastern European ISIS converts, who then reached out to his ‘wife’.


Safaa Boular, left, was caught out plotting a terror attack at the British Museum by MI5 officers after her ‘husband’ Naweed Hussain’s death in a drone strike in Syria last year. Then 17, Boular was approached by the agents who posed as Hussain’s ISIS commander and a jihadi widow, and convinced her to discuss details of her plan to assault the museum with a gun and grenades

Boular, 18, has become the youngest woman convicted of a terror plot in the UK and jurors saw chilling photos from her phone including a picture taken outside the MI6 building, with the court hearing the sisters were deciding which buildings to target

Safaa, pictured here on CCTV while on ‘reconnaissance’ around London, also wanted to attack the British Museum with a machine gun and grenades

According to the Times, they then posed as his unit commander and a jihadi widow to convince Boular to discuss obtaining weapons for the British Museum plot.  

She was already on MI5’s watchlist along with her sister over their plans to travel to Syria and the teenager, then 17, was arrested and had her passport seized. 

Boular has also been caught on CCTV taking a selfie near the MI6 headquarters during a chilling ‘reconnaissance’ mission. 

Even after Safaa was arrested she made phone calls to her sister from behind bars urging her to carry on the plot through coded messages about a ‘Mad Hatter’s tea party’.

Rizlaine, 22, was later shot by anti-terror officers as she and friend Khawla Barghouthi were arrested last year in a raid in Harlesden, north west London.

Now all face jail when they are sentenced over the coming weeks, with Safaa set to return to the dock in six weeks and the other three due in court on June 15.


Mother Mina Dich, left, helped with reconnaissance trips and bought knives and sister Rizlaine, right, planned to carry on the terror attack plans after Safaa was arrested

Boular made no reaction in the dock as she was found guilty by a jury after two days of deliberations.

Judge Mark Dennis QC put off sentencing for around six weeks for a report to be compiled.

The schoolgirl originally plotted to join him in Syria where they would don suicide belts and ‘depart the world holding hands.’

But the plans were foiled when her passport was seized after she was arrested at the airport after a family holiday in Morocco.

She was kept in custody as police uncovered details of her plans to carry out a kamikaze attack at the British Museum with grenades and firearms.

Family friend Khawla Barghouthi, right, admitted failing to disclose information on an act of terrorism is to be sentenced on June 15

Following her arrest, Safaa encouraged her older sister Rizlaine, 22, to pick up her mantle and launch a knife attack at the Palace of Westminster.

Her mother, 44-year-old hardline fundamentalist Mina Dich, also encouraged her daughters to carry out atrocities and even drove Rizlaine around tourist hotspots and bought a selection of knives and a rucksack.

Rizlaine was shot and wounded by armed police as she and a friend were arrested at an address in Harlesden, north London, on 27 April last year.

Dich was arrested as she visited Safaa at a Kent detention centre later the same day.

The mother and Rizlaine admitted engaging in preparation for terrorist acts while another woman, Rizlaine’s friend Khawla Barghouthi, 21 admitted failing to disclose information about an act of terrorism.

Safaa normally wore a full-body burka but donned Western clothes throughout her trial in an attempt to convince jurors she had spurned the twisted fundamentalism that made her a so-called ‘Sister of Terror’.

Her mother had brought up Safaa and Rizlaine up as strict Muslims in a home that was ‘all Islam,’ the Old Bailey heard.

Safraa had never met ISIS fighter Hussain face to face, but he persuaded her to send him intimate pictures of herself and they were set to marry in a bizarre Skype ceremony.

He instructed her to stab strangers outside the ‘cultural jewel and most popular of tourist attractions.’

When it became clear they would never meet after police seized her passport following an airport stop, their focus switched to an attack in the UK.


The sisters, pictured left at a younger age before they were radicalised. A picture was found on her phone that is thought to show all four women posing in burkas


Safaa Boular (left), 18, has been convicted of being part of an all-woman terror cell with her mother and older sister. Safaa was trained online by her fiancée Naweed Hussain (right), a British Pakistani national who joined ISIS in Syria in 2015 only to be killed in an air strike

Meanwhile, she had contact with a de-radicaliser in December 2016 and signed a form promising not to contact her sister or Hussain, although she secretly continued to speak to both.

In March 2017, just one month before Rizlaine Boular’s planned knife attack, the teenager was heard laughing at the Westminster Bridge atrocity, although she denied it.

Senior National Coordinator for Counter Terrorism Dean Haydon described Boular as mature for her age, confident and devious in the way she secretly plotted.

But since being held in custody at Medway Secure Training Centre, Boular insisted she had changed.

She told jurors she has turned her back on her radical past and taken to wearing Western dress.

Safaa normally wore a full-body burka but donned Western clothes throughout her trial in an attempt to convince jurors she had spurned the twisted fundamentalism that made her a ‘Sister of Terror.’

Her mother had brought up Safaa and Rizlaine up as strict Muslims in a home that was ‘all Islam,’ the Old Bailey heard.

The girls were allowed to wear just headdresses with Western clothes – until Safaa was caught chatting to boys on her mobile phone when she was 13.

The enraged mother forced her to wear a full-length burka and took her phone away.

Pictures of a gun and grenades sent to her by Hussain were found on Boular’s phone


Boular also plotted knife attacks along with the gun rampage, and Sainsbury’s kitchen knives were seized by police after they were bought by Rizlaine and her mother

Safaa called Childline and ran away from home in 2014 after feeling ‘crazy, jealous’ at schoolfriends who could talk to boys and ‘wear what they wanted’.

But by now Rizlaine had become increasingly radicalised in the toxic atmosphere home where it was normal to blame the sins of the world on the ‘kafir’ and the decadence of the West.

Two months after Safaa ran away from home in August 2014, Rizlaine was stopped in Istanbul and flown back to the UK after she tried to join ISIS there.

By the time of the Paris attacks in November 2015 Safaa too was fully radicalised and in contact with prolific ISIS recruiter Umm Isa Al-Amriki who was living there.

Al-Amriki was part of a team who were persuading young women from around the world to join them in Syria as fighters and mothers of a new generation of jihadis.

‘As I was covered up I faced a lot of discrimination and a lot of people calling me names in the streets here like ninja, umbrella and postbox,’ said Safaa.

‘But there, the women are the same.

‘She showed me videos where it was Eid in Islamic State and they would give sweets to children and the children were very happy and they were well looked after and everyone was equal.’

Among the hundreds of online ISIS friends she developed was British jihadi Hussain, whom she first got in touch with around three months before being stopped at the airport.

They never met face-to-face but chatted extensively over social media, with Hussain sending dozens of photos, including images of himself at the scenes of executions.

Boular said she was ‘flattered’ when Hussain confessed his undying love.

Pictures have also been found on Boular’s phone showing inside the various properties the women used including homes in Harlesden, Lambeth and Clerkenwell 

A wall-mounted television screen can also be seen within the living room of one of the properties where the plots against Western culture were made

‘IT’S GOING TO BE LIKE A TEA PARTY’: THE CODED PHONE CONVERSATIONS BEHIND PLOT

Recorded telephone calls between the siblings whilst Safaa was behind bars showed her encouraging Rizlaine to ‘carry the torch forward in her stead’

Several chats made reference to ‘a party’ – basic code for an attack.

Rizlaine told her younger sister on 24 April: ‘It’s going to be like me and a few sisters and stuff and we’re just gonna have fun.

‘It’s basically gonna be like a tea party and stuff.’

She added: ‘It’s gonna be fun it’s going to be on erm Thursday we’re gonna have this party.’

The prosecutor said the girls went on to make several references to ‘Jannah’, or paradise, and ‘referred to a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party and Alice in Wonderland.’

Rizlaine later claimed a friend ‘knows a few recipes for some amazing cakes’.

‘So hopefully we can have it really fancy, proper like English tea party, kind of thing,’ she added.

Safaa could then be heard suggesting the ‘Alice in Wonderland theme’.

Dich drove her eldest daughter around major London landmarks near Westminster Bridge in her silver Vauxhall Astra as the pair carried out ‘hostile reconnaissance’ the following day.

On 26 April, the pair were seen buying knives and a rucksack on Wandsworth Road, southwest London.

Dich then carried out a series of U-turns in an attempt to throw counter terror officers off her trail as she drove home to Armada House in Lambeth.

Rizlaine travelled to her friend Barghouti’s home in Harlesden the following day where they discussed and practised carrying out a knife attack.

She voiced concerns that she would be too small to target a group of males and would opt instead for women or a man on his own.

Rizlaine also told Barghouti: ‘If I get tasered I’m asking that Allah gives me a heart attack.’

Barghouthi then asked: ‘How are you going to do it? What if they are faster than you?’

Boular replied: ‘I’ll put the knife into (inaudible) heart instead.’

Police moved in to arrest the pair and Rizlaine was shot and injured.

She explained that her marriage to Hussain consisted of ‘this kind of online ceremony’ involving two witnesses and a Sheikh acting as her guardian because she had no say.

‘It was something I didn’t really understand and I just went along with it,’ she added.

Hussain had sent some of the same images to a Page 3 girl he had also tried to lure to Syria.

But it was Safaa’s intention to meet up Hussain and ‘to offer her services, together with her life, to engage in acts of terrorism’.

They openly discussed Safaa wearing a suicide belt to use if threatened by non-believers.

‘Don’t eva b hesitant 2 pull da pin ok,’ he instructed.

‘Ur honour is worth more than any kaafirs life.’

The teenager later asked ‘is it us’ versus an image of President Obama, prompting Hussain to call him a ‘filthy kalb’, or dog.

Referring to former US President Barack Obama, he asked her: ‘How will y kill him. If u had da choice.’

Boular claimed she would ‘shake my hand with Mr president’ accompanied by two explosion emojis.

The pair also bonded over their shared love of TV quiz shows ‘Deal Or No Deal’ and ‘The Chase.’

Around £3,000 was sent to Rizlaine to fund the journey of both women to Syria.

Safaa was interviewed after she was stopped at the airport on 19 August 2016 and told police she had intended to go to Syria and live under sharia law

Her passport was seized and during a search of her home in Vauxhall officers confiscated a phone she said she had been using to contact Hussain.

Two days later Dich alerted the police to report Safaa and Rizlaine missing.

Rizlaine and her mother bought the kitchen knives during a shopping trip alongside innocuous items including a cake taster, pictured


More pictures from Boular’s phone show gym equipment and a messy kitchen

Given the fact that both girls had previously expressed a desire to travel to Syria, officers quickly mounted a search and located them at a northwest London hostel.

By the end of the year MI5 had deployed role players to chat first with Hussain and then, following his death last April, Boular.

Without travel documents Safaa turned her attentions to plotting a terror attack in Britain.

Both Hussain and Safaa spoke of planning an ambush in involving grenades and guns.

Safaa wanted to cause carnage at the British Museum and in December 2016, she was spotted in full Islamic dress carrying out reconnaissance outside the MI6 building near her home, strolling up and down past the entrance and snapping a selfie.

The family was bugged at their home and they were recorded laughing about over the Westminster Bridge attack.

Safaa giggled as she sarcastically that she wanted to take flowers to the site where five people died on March 22, 2017.

Dich guffaws as her daughter says: ‘Mum, if they put flowers there can we go and put flowers there as well and candles?’

Boular was told of Hussain’s death by a trained role player from the security services claiming to be his commander in Syria.

All three women can be heard wailing and crying at the news before one of them says: ‘Rejoice! He is a martyr.’

Rizlaine then tells her sister: ‘Hey listen, many people envy you. You should be jealous of what he had.’

All three can also be heard praying in Arabic, with Dich heard commenting that Hussain ‘is in Paradise’.

Rizlaine told her sister and: ‘He’s waiting for you’ and Dich told the sobbing teenager that they were ‘so proud’ of her.

She said her daughter ‘should be happy’ that Hussain had been martyred.

The teenager replied that she was.

‘Thanks to God,’ she said, adding: ‘I love him so much.’

She was charged over her failed attempt to go to Syria just over a week after Hussain’s death, on 12 April, and remanded into secure accommodation at Medway Secure Training Unit in Kent.

A subsequent search of her home revealed a secret phone stashed inside a cushion which had been delivered by Hussain’s sister, Tahzeem, in a heart-shaped box from her home in Coventry.

Rizlaine told police back in August 2016 that she had intended to travel to Syria with her younger sister but she was formally dropped from the investigation in December of that year.

There was no indication Dich had played any part in Safaa’s radicalisation or activity and investigators considered her to be just like any other concerned mother when she reported the girls missing.

But they then found extremist material on her phone in late 2016 and it quickly became apparent she not only encouraged but took an actively role in her daughters’ terrorist plots.

Recorded telephone calls between the siblings whilst Safaa was behind bars showed her encouraging Rizlaine to ‘carry the torch forward in her stead’

Several chats made reference to ‘a party’ – basic code for an attack.

Rizlaine told her younger sister on 24 April: ‘It’s going to be like me and a few sisters and stuff and we’re just gonna have fun.

Knives were found inside the rucksack seized by police after Rizlaine was arrested

‘It’s basically gonna be like a tea party and stuff.’

She added: ‘It’s gonna be fun it’s going to be on erm Thursday we’re gonna have this party.’

The prosecutor said the girls went on to make several references to ‘Jannah’, or paradise, and ‘referred to a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party and Alice in Wonderland.’

Rizlaine later claimed a friend ‘knows a few recipes for some amazing cakes’.

‘So hopefully we can have it really fancy, proper like English tea party, kind of thing,’ she added.

Safaa could then be heard suggesting the ‘Alice in Wonderland theme’.

Dich drove her eldest daughter around major London landmarks near Westminster Bridge in her silver Vauxhall Astra as the pair carried out ‘hostile reconnaissance’ the following day.

On 26 April, the pair were seen buying knives and a rucksack on Wandsworth Road, southwest London.

Dich then carried out a series of U-turns in an attempt to throw counter terror officers off her trail as she drove home to Armada House in Lambeth.

Rizlaine travelled to her friend Barghouti’s home in Harlesden the following day where they discussed and practised carrying out a knife attack.

She voiced concerns that she would be too small to target a group of males and would opt instead for women or a man on his own.

Rizlaine also told Barghouti: ‘If I get tasered I’m asking that Allah gives me a heart attack.’

Barghouthi then asked: ‘How are you going to do it? What if they are faster than you?’

Boular replied: ‘I’ll put the knife into (inaudible) heart instead.’

Police moved in to arrest the pair and Rizlaine was shot and injured.

Dich was arrested as she visited Safaa at the Medway detention centre later the same day.

Boular, of Lambeth, southwest London, denied two counts of engaging in preparation for terrorist acts but was convicted of both charges by the jury.

She remains in custody and will be sentenced at a later date in around six weeks pending reports.

Rizlaine Boular, of Clerkenwell, central London, admitted preparing for an attack in the UK using knives or other weapons.

Hussain, pictured, was killed in an air strike before he could meet Boular but his ‘fiancee’ believed he was in ‘paradise’

The British Pakistani national joined ISIS in 2015 and met Boular online where he convinced her to send him illicit images of herself

Dich, of Lambeth, southwest London, admitted assisting her in preparation of such an attack.

Barghouthi, of Harlesden, northwest London, admitted failing to disclose information about an act of terrorism.

Those three will be sentenced on 15 June.

Sue Hemming, Head of the CPS Counter-Terrorism Division, said: ‘Safaa Boular’s intention was to cause serious injury and death.

‘She first planned to do this in Syria by detonating a suicide belt with her fiancé by her side.

‘When she was prevented from travelling her focus switched to an attack on the British Museum where there would be a large crowd.

‘Once Safaa was remanded in custody her sister Rizlaine Boular took forward the plan with the help of Mina Dich and Khwala Barghouthi.’

She added: ‘They all present a danger to the public and will be sentenced for their actions.’

Meanwhile authorities failed to steer Britain’s youngest female terrorist plotter away from the clutches of Islamic State recruiters despite some clear alarm signals.

Prevent, the community counter-terrorism programme, did not become involved with Safaa Boular when her older sister Rizlaine tried to become a jihadi bride in 2014, when the defendant was aged 14.

Counter-terrorism chief Dean Haydon said: ‘We did consider Prevent at that time but when she (Rizlaine) came back from Turkey. She then married and settled down and had a young baby and as a result of that she changed her life around.

‘Because she was becoming more stable in the UK she turned her attention from travelling. We had no evidence she was either seeking to travel or getting involved in activity.’

The British Museum, pictured, was another tourist attraction targetted by Boular and her family

A knife seized by police during their raids on the all-female terror cell in London

Mr Haydon, who is senior national coordinator for counter terrorism, said Prevent and social services did not become involved in Safaa Boular’s case until two years later.

By then, Boular had already been radicalised online and was living in a ‘dysfunctional’ family.

Boular, then aged 16, had an online marriage ceremony with IS fighter Naweed Hussain and had been persuaded to exchange explicit naked selfies with him.

In August 2016, police considered her mother Mina Dich as a concerned parent after she helped stop her daughters from travelling to Syria.

But by December, it became clear from the contents of her phone that Dich held extremist views of her own, and social services were called in to act.

Mr Haydon said: ‘As a family unit, they are pretty dysfunctional.

‘On the evidence we can see they had access to a vast amount of extremist material.

‘There was a major safeguarding issue we had to manage. It did involve social services, local authorities, schools, education and family courts trying to safeguard the wider family.

‘But despite all that activity it was quite clear Safaa was still continuing with her attack plans.’

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