Cubeyda Hassan Jama, a computer science student studying at Middlesex University, was jailed for three and a half years yesterday for engaging in the preparation of terrorist acts.
Jama used his student loan to stockpile survival equipment and buy a one-way ticket to Bucharest in February – aiming to cross the Turkish-Syrian border to join Islamic State (IS).
He had boarded his flight with an Islamic State list detailing equipment the group recommended people joining them carry, as well as much of the equipment on the list.
However, before the plane departed from the UK he was taken off the aircraft and charged under Section 5 of the Terrorism Act 2006.
Described as “naive” and “vulnerable” by probation services, Jama is thought to have been radicalised online in a relatively short space of time.
Gruesome IS propaganda including beheading videos was found on his phone and laptop. He also had, amongst other jihadist material, all 13 editions of the online IS English-language magazine, Dabiq.
Digital forensic specialists also discovered a document which set out arguments attempting to legitimise suicide bombings on a USB stick owned by Jama, while the police found a list he had written outlining a number of jobs he could possibly do as part of IS, one of which was bomb-maker.
The judge agreed Jama was naive and suggested he may have been “isolated” due to English not being his first language.
He went on to say:
“Having looked at your background you were in my view at risk of radicalisation, be it self-radicalisation on the internet, radicalisation through others or a combination of the two, and that’s exactly what happened. It seems that the period over which that material was downloaded into your possession and the items that you had with you were acquired was short, a matter of weeks from the start of the year and almost certainly that was because that was when you received the student loan which made you financially able to purchase such equipment.”
Last year, Yahya Rashid, another student from Middlesex University, also attempted to travel to Syria to fight for IS and used his student loan to fund his travel.
Jama’s case is yet another example of a vulnerable young person being drawn into terrorism, and highlights further the need for universities to have safeguarding measures in place to protect their students from radicalisation.
While it is always easy in hindsight to say more could be done, had the signs of Jama’s increasing radicalism been spotted early enough, it is possible an intervention could have been carried out before he committed a criminal offence.
As such, universities need to be doing as much as possible to give their staff the confidence to identify these signs and understand the processes that are put in place should they raise concerns.
This will be crucial if individuals like Jama are to be provided with the support they need.