LONDON (Reuters) - A British teenager was found guilty on Thursday of plotting to behead a soldier in London after being influenced by the murder of an Afghan war veteran who was hacked to death by two Islamists in the capital a year earlier.
Muslim convert Brusthom Ziamani, 19, was arrested last August carrying a 12-inch (30-cm) knife and a hammer, wrapped in a black Islamic flag.
Prosecutors told London’s Old Bailey court he had researched the location of army cadet barracks and they believed he was on his way to a military base when he was detained. Ziamani, from Camberwell, southeast London, was convicted of preparing terrorist acts.
Commander Richard Walton, from London police’s Counter Terrorism Command, said after the verdict that the case starkly illustrated one of the threats police currently face in Britain.
“Ziamani was an impressionable young man who became radicalized then rapidly developed an extremist, violent mindset,” he said in a statement. “Over a series of months he ultimately developed a desire to carry out a terrorist attack on British soldiers.”
Ziamani will be sentenced on March 20.
Last August, Britain raised its international terrorism threat level to the second-highest rating, “severe”, meaning an attack is considered highly likely.
Since then, dozens of people have been arrested, including some over alleged plots to behead police officers, soldiers or members of the public. Police across the country have also been warned to be alert to the risk of attack.
The court was told Ziamani had praised Michael Adebolajo, one of the two men who ran over British soldier Lee Rigby near a barracks in Woolwich, south London, in 2013 and then set upon him with a meat cleaver and knives.
He had also been previously arrested by counter terrorism officers over messages he had posted on social media. In an interview with police, he had agreed he would harm British Prime Minister David Cameron if he had the chance.
The jury heard he had converted to Islam and had fallen in with al Muhajiroun, a banned group headed by Britain’s most high-profile Islamist Anjem Choudary.
Ziamani, who had denied the charge, said he had only expressed extremist views to fit in with the group and, while he did not disagree with Rigby’s killing, would not do something similar himself. His lawyer had said while his views might have been repulsive, he was not planning any attack.
Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Stephen Addison