ISIS terrorist reveals he was one of at least seven University of Westminster students to join the terrorist group
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An ISIS fighter has revealed that he is among seven former students from a single London university to have joined the terror group.
In 2014, Zakariyya Elogbani abandoned his business management degree at the University of Westminster to join the jihadis.
From his detention cell in Syria he has now told the BBC that he was one of seven Westminster students to fight for the Islamist group.
The BBC has identified an eighth person who was studying there while on a terror protection order which was made less restrictive by a judge.
University of Westminster said it takes its safeguarding duty ‘very seriously’.
The men now identified as Westminister jihadis are Elogbani himself, now detained in Syria; Ishak Mostefaoui who travelled to Syria with him and had his British citizenship revoked for ISIS activities; and Mohammed Emwazi, known as Jihadi John.
Elogbani told the BBC another three fellow students have also been killed fighting for ISIS, among them Qasim Abukar, a hardened jihadist who previously fought with a militant group in Somalia. His brother Makhzumi Abukar was jailed for a million-pound fraud linked to the terror group, police believe.
Another former University of Westminster student who went to Syria was Akram Sabah, who left the university in 2011. He and his brother were killed in fighting in September 2013. And Mohamed Jakir, a jihadi killed in Syria in 2014 after seven weeks in country, was also reportedly a Westminster University student.
This is not the first time the institution has been linked with young men who turned to violent extremism. Ten years ago Mohammed Emwazi, the ISIS fighter dubbed Jihadi John who decapitated Western hostages on film, studied there.
Elogbani, from east London, was captured by Kurdish forces in Syria last summer.
He told the BBC: ‘Obviously we came here intending to fight. That’s the honest truth. But I don’t think it was a love for blood.’
In a likely reference to Jihadi John, he said Westminster students who had joined ISIS in Syria before he joined the university had ‘kind of opened the way’.
Jihadi John – Mohammed Emwazi – studied information systems at Westminster but left for Syria in 2013. He became infamous after appearing in videos in which he killed Western hostages. He was killed in a missile strike in November 2015.
Elogbani said he had never met Emwazi, but said he had seen another of the so called ‘Beatles’ – Brits who joined ISIS – in Syria.
The BBC found Elogbani travelled with fellow Westminster student Ishak Mostefaoui.
Ishak’s father Abderrahmane said his family came to London when Ishak was five and that the household opposed extremism.
Ishak was a popular, football-loving boy radicalised, his father believes, by people at University of Westminster in around 2013.
In April 2014, Mostefaoui said he was going to Amsterdam for a few days. Then they heard nothing for a month before he called to say he was in Syria. His father ‘collapsed’ when he heard the news.
Mostefaoui is among those ISIS fighters to have had his citizenship removed. Three months ago his wife and young son died, and he was badly injured, when his house was bombed. He is now being held in detention.
Elogbani told the BBC another three fellow students left around the same time as him and have since been killed.
He claims Ibrahim was killed in the siege of Raqqa, Abu Talha ‘died in the desert of Anbar’ and Abu Ubaydah was killed in Tikrit, Iraq.
The BBC has not confirmed all three identities but one is understood to be Qasim Abukar, a hardened jihadist who previously fought with a militant group in Somalia.
Abukar, who has been known to the security services for years, enrolled at Westminster in September 2012. Elogbani’s friends, spekaing on condition of anonymity, said Abukar had played a key role in radicalising Elogbani.
Abukar fled Britain for Somalia during a 2009 trial in which he was accused of attempting to travel to Afghanistan for terrorism. He was acquitted in his absence.
A separate High Court appeal heard that in Somalia, Abukar was ‘involved in fighting’ alongside the militant group al-Shabaab and tried to recruit fighters in the UK for overseas operations. The court was told he was ‘potentially involved in attack planning’ against Western interests.
He was jailed in Somalia but returned to the UK in 2011 claiming he had been mistreated with the knowledge of the British state. Never having been found guilty by a court of terrorism offences, he was placed on a control order and a Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measure (TPIM) to restrict his movements.
TPIMs can be imposed on terror suspects, who officials decide can neither be charged nor deported, but who are nevertheless assessed to be potentially involved in terrorist-related activities.
Despite being described in court as having played a ‘substantial role’ in his extremist network, Abukar began studying at University of Westminster a year later.
Because he had ‘a track record of absconding’, he had to report daily to a local police station and wear an electronic tag.
But in April 2013 he won an appeal to reduce one of the restrictions on his movements when a High Court judge permitted him to interact more with fellow students, despite warnings from MI5 that it would mean ‘the risk of him engaging in terrorism-related activity’.
At this time people close to Elogbani and Mostefaoui noticed their views were becoming extreme. Several sources told the BBC that Abukar was one of the people involved in radicalising them.
Abukar’s brother Makhzumi was another jihadi Westminster student, involved in procuring funds for the terror cell.
He was jailed for seven years after pleading guilty in 2016 to a million-pound fraud to steal the savings of pensioners. Scotland Yard believes the money was destined for extremists in Syria.
Court documents, seen by the BBC, reveal that when his home was searched in July 2014, only weeks after Elogbani and Mostefaoui had left the UK, notes found in his jacket recorded a series of financial transfers to a town on the Turkish/Syrian border known as ISIS International, because of its popularity as a handover point for foreign jihadists.
Another former University of Westminster student who went to Syria was Akram Sabah, a recruitment consultant who left the university in 2011 with a degree in biomedical sciences.
He and his older brother Mohammed were killed in fighting in September 2013.
Mohamed Jakir, a jihadi killed in Syria in 2014 after seven weeks in country, was also reportedly a Westminster University student, reading law.
That remains unconfirmed by the BBC. If true, it would take the overall number of fighters from the university to at least eight.
In 2015 the university commissioned a report after Jihadi John’s links to the institution became public. Fiyaz Mughal, one of its authors, said: ‘The university failed to understand its duty of care around confronting and countering extremist views.
‘But more importantly it didn’t even understand its duty of care and didn’t understand the concept of things like Islamism and extremism.’
Mughal was concerned that the Islamic Society at the university, in which Elogbani was active, was ‘allowed to run its own fiefdom’ where women and LGBT students were treated with hostility.
Former members denied a culture of extremism existed.
A University of Westminster spokeswoman told MailOnline: ‘The University takes its responsibility in relation to safeguarding and to the development of positive global citizens very seriously.
She said the report noted that: ‘Most of what the Panel heard and saw was most heartening. Like the Security Services, the Panel found no evidence at all to support journalistic claims that the University of Westminster was a breeding-ground for extremism’.
She added where the panel did highlight points for action, the University took steps to address these in line with its ‘absolute priority to safeguard its community’.
She said: ‘As a University which has wellbeing at its heart, Westminster has a strong pastoral and interfaith focus providing care and support to its community of 20,000 students from more than 150 countries.’
In Syria Elogbani, who lost his legs in a missile attack in 2015 and his British citizenship after that, told the BBC: ‘I committed a crime by coming here. I guess I need to be punished.
‘Anyone that’s still immersed by Islamic State methodology is wrong.
‘It’s a gang. A lot of people are tricked. Don’t fall into the same trick.’
In a statement, the Home Office said it did not comment on individual cases but pointed out that TPIMs provide some of the most restrictive measures available in the democratic world.
Source: Daily Mail