Terrorist Inmate Dressed in Fake Suicide Vest, Stabbed Guard, Wanted to Be Martyred

(L) Brusthom Ziamani (R) Baz Macaulay Hockton
Metropolitan Police Service

Two radical Islamist inmates — one of which is serving a 22-year sentence for plotting to behead a soldier — at a British prison were found guilty of attempted murder of a prison guard. Both convicts were said to have wanted to become “martyrs”.

Brusthom Ziamani, 25, and Baz Hockton, also 25, were found guilty at the Old Bailey on Wednesday of attempted murder after trying to stab to death a guard at Her Majesty’s Prison Whitemoor on January 9th of this year.

Hockton and Ziamani had forged makeshift weapons and were wearing fake suicide vests made of plastic cartons and wires at the time of the attack. They had lured the prison officer to a cupboard on the pretext of needing a spoon, before they pushed the guard to the ground and began stabbing him while shouting “Allah hu Akbar!” ([my] god is greater [than yours]). Other guards eventually overpowered the extremists.

Ziamani was also convicted of common assault and actual bodily harm of another prison officer and a nurse, who had both tried to stop the attack.

The incident was treated as an act of terrorism, with detectives finding belongings of both men “which were supportive of extremist Islamic ideology”, according to the Metropolitan Police Service. Investigators found amongst Hockton’s belongings a prayer written by Ziamani asking Allah to make “me and you of the best shuhada [martyrs] very very very soon”.

Both convicts fit patterns of Islamist radicalisation seen in the UK in recent years: one radicalised by an extremist preacher, and the other radicalised in prison.

Aged 19, Brusthom Ziamani, formerly a Jehovah’s Witness, was homeless when he became involved with Islamist extremists after he started to attend a south London mosque.

Known to his family as Bruce, he then was offered a place to stay in Camberwell, at a flat described by a 2015 Telegraph report as a ‘hotbed’ of radicalisation, which was frequented by members of Al-Muhajiroun, which was led by Anjem Choudary. The British government banned Al-Muhajiroun in 2006; the extremist organisation allegedly inspired half of the British terror attacks planned or carried out in the UK or abroad since 2000, according to a 2015 report. Choudary was eventually jailed for five years in 2016 for inviting support for Islamic State.

Ziamani, who took on the name Mujahid Karim, said he was a supporter of Choudary and began attending extremist demonstrations, calling for shariah law on the streets of Britain. He was also said to have idolised the killers of Drummer Lee Rigby Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, both of whom had also attended al-Muhajiroun protests.

Wanting to emulate the 2013 terror attack, Ziamani plotted to kill a soldier, before an intelligence-led operation resulted in his arrest and eventual 2015 conviction for terrorism offences. He was said to have been radicalised in a matter of weeks.

While serving time at HMP Woodhill, Ziamani reportedly was radicalising other inmates and ran a sharia court, doling out punishments, including viciously beating a fellow Muslim for the crime of drinking alcohol. Another report from the time claimed that warring factions were vying for control of jihadist inmates at Woodhill prison, Ziamani said to be a defector from Islamic State to al Qaeda.

The Islamic State group was at one time reportedly led by Simeon Nicholls, a Muslim convert originally jailed for robbery. He is alleged to have told one new inmate in 2016: “Woodhill is an Islamic State prison and AQ are not welcome here.” Nicholls had his prison sentence extended by another three years for assaulting prison staff at Strangeways prison, who he claimed had disturbed his prayers.

Baz Hockton, Ziamani’s ally in January’s terror attack on a prison guard, was described by The Times as a newly-converted Muslim, who had not long been transferred to Whitemoor after attacking an inmate at another prison. He had initially been serving time for assault.

A 2016 independent review by Professor Ian Acheson described Islamic extremism in British prisons as a “growing problem”. Government sources said at the time, however, that there had been “widespread reluctance” amongst prison administrators to “challenge unacceptable extremist behaviour and views, because of the fear of being labelled racist”.

Prison radicalisation and Islamism at Her Majesty’s prisons came to prominence again in November, when Muslim extremist Usman Khan, a convicted terrorist who had been released early on a tag, had killed two people running a prisoner rehabilitation programme. Usman’s lawyer said that his client had deceived him in appearing to be reformed before his prison release.

Professor Acheson expressed his “disappointment” that the government failed to take on board his 2016 recommendations, saying in December that the prison and probation service “is still not capable of managing a serious threat to our national security”.

Investigators into the January attack by Hockton and Ziamani believe that the attempt to murder a prison guard was inspired by the Usman Khan attack two months earlier. Khan was a former inmate of Whitemoor, which was named in a July 2019 Ministry of Justice report as a prison where an earlier study had “found tensions relating to fears of extremism and radicalisation”.

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