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12 May, 2016 10:05

Ex-RAF gunner admits he tried to join ISIS

Ex-RAF gunner admits he tried to join ISIS

Former RAF regiment gunner Stephen Gray admitted in court to having tried on two separate occasions to reach Syria with the intention of becoming a jihadist fighter.

Gray, also known as Mustafa, served with No 2 Squadron of the Royal Air Force Regiment – the Air Force’s own infantry soldiers – in and around Baghdad in 2004.

The court heard how Gray left his wives and Manchester-based cleaning firm behind with the hope of joining either Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) or the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra.

The details of the trial revealed how Gray used the now-established routes for would-be jihadists in his vain attempts to join the war.

He was arrested at Manchester Airport in November 2014 after making his first attempt in July that year.

On that occasion, he reportedly boarded a Eurostar bound for Brussels then moved by road to Bulgaria before being arrested at the Turkish border after police were warned by UK counter-terror operatives.

The guilty verdict can only be reported now because an accomplice, Abdalraouf Abdallah, was also on trial for helping Gray and three other radicals in their efforts to join IS.

Abdullah was on trial for operating a “jihadist network facilitating foreign fighters” and his activities include sending £2,000 to his brother Mohammed for terrorist purposes, lawyers argued.

Mohammed was said to have been waiting for Gray in Syria. The Abdallahs are of Libyan origin and arrived in the UK in 1993 as refugees.

Judge Christopher Kinch said: "A prison sentence is going to follow in light of the jury’s verdicts.

A security expert recently warned that a number of dangerous jihadists had made the return leg to the UK and were at large in Britain.

Scott Wilson, coordinator of the Home Office Protect and Prepare counter-terrorism program, told the Security and Counter Terror Expo conference in London in late April that up to a fifth of the 350 returned jihadists could carry out deadly attacks in the UK.

He said support for IS in the UK had outstripped that of Al-Qaeda, warning that while he could not say “where it is going to go” the new threat would endure “for a long, long time.