Teachers, accountants, supermarket workers, businessmen, and a vicar’s son – these are the faces of one of Britain’s biggest jihadist networks uncovered in the Black Country.
And today the Express & Star can lift the lid on the true scale of a wave of Islamic extremism in support of the bloodthirsty and barbaric Islamic State that swept Walsall.
In the summer of 2014, the proscribed terrorist organisation ISIS, under the leadership of former al-Qaeda commander Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, established the so-called Islamic State and declared a ‘worldwide caliphate’ in parts of Syria and northern Iraq under its control.
In doing so the fundamentalist group would say it placed a global obligation on Muslims to migrate from the lands of non-believers, the ‘kuffar’, to the captured territory in Syria and Iraq governed under strict Islamic Sharia law.
The extremists came to prominence after videos emerged of the masked British slaughterer Mohammed Emwazi, also known as Jihadi John, beheading British and American hostages.
In Walsall there was already one group of young Muslim men that was on the radar of West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit and MI5 as early as 2012.
They called themselves Islam Walsall and had a meeting house in Bradford Lane just off of the town centre.
At Walsall market they had a stall and would wear traditional Islamic dress handing out copies of the Quran. But under the guise of Islamic missionary, this group in fact harboured dangerous and extreme views.
In a menacing letter it warned imams in the town not to welcome MPs, police, councillors or other ‘non-believers’ into the Aisha Mosque in Rutter Street, Caldmore.
And on Christmas Day in 2013 the group hosted cronies of hook-handed cleric Abu Hamza and 7/7 preacher Abdullah el-Faisal at a hotel in the town. The group attracted up to 30 people at its meetings – making it potentially the largest Islamic extremist group ever uncovered in the Black Country.
In 2014, after the declaration of the Islamic State caliphate, six people from Walsall successfully travelled to Syria and at least a further five tried to do so, including three pregnant women.
Chillingly two of the women tried to take their five young children, leading the group to be dubbed the ‘Babies for ISIS gang’.
The first from the group to make the journey, or ‘hijra’ to the war-torn country was vicar’s son Jake Petty, 25, on July 8, 2014.
He had converted to Islam aged 15 and arrived in Syria at some point after August 9.
In 2011 he had been detained by security services in Kenya on suspicion of trying to join terrorist organisation Al Shabaab in Somalia.
While in Kenya, Petty had been with friends Omar Siadatan and Sajid Aslam.
Three years later he traveled to Turkey, where he met up with English teacher Aslam, 34, and Omar’s brother Isaiah Siadatan, 24, who arrived on the Turkish/Syrian border on August 20, 2014. All three would cross into Syria to join ISIS.
Petty, of Slaney Road, Pleck, and Siadatan, whose half-sister Yasmina won the BBC1 show The Apprentice, were killed fighting for ISIS last year.
Aslam, of Glebe Street, Caldmore, who is still alive, professes he is actually in Turkey and helping Syrian refugees.
Meanwhile back in Walsall, law graduate Ayman Shaukat, 27, who worked for a financial services firm in Essington, was keeping tabs on events.
He was dubbed the ‘fixer’ and ‘terror travel agent’ as he was in contact with those travelling to Syria and looked after the affairs of those who had travelled back at home.
When Counter Terrorism officers searched his home in Pargeter Street, Birchills, they found an Islamic State flag above his bed and books entitled ‘39 ways to serve and participate in Jihad’ and ‘44 ways to support Jihad’.
It is thought he too would have travelled to Syria had he owned a passport.
However, she never boarded the flights as by now police had busted the huge plot and searched her Glebe Street home following an email from Petty to his mother which revealed he had become an ISIS soldier in Syria.
On November 4, Muslim convert Alex Nash, 22, and his pregnant wife Yousma Jan, 20, both of Bentley Lane, Birchills, flew to Istanbul but were detained by Turkish authorities three days later on suspicion of trying to cross into Syria. They were deported back to the UK.
Later that month on November 17, Siadatan’s pregnant wife Kerry Thomason, 24, booked flights to Turkey for her and her two children. Police seized her passport and took her children into care.
And for the first time it can be revealed that court documents show that then on November 28, a prominent figure in Islam Walsall, who cannot be named, was detained in Dover with his pregnant wife. They said they were headed to Sofia in Bulgaria. The next day the pair tried to travel again and were investigated by West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit and remained on bail until it was cancelled in February last year. They have not been charged with any offence and no case has been brought against them.
Also travelling by coach on November 28 was Abul Hasan.
Hasan, of Hart Street, Caldmore, was an associate of Shaukat and a member of Islam Walsall. He succeeded in making it to Syria and was later killed in a US air strike in Raqqa in July last year.
On December 1, Musadikur Rohaman and his wife Zohura Siddeka, both then aged 27, flew from Birmingham Airport to Istanbul.
Tesco warehouse team leader Musadikur was friends with Hasan and had also been in phone contact with Shaukat while Siddeka worked at Blue Coat infants school in Walsall as did Sajid Aslam.
On December 8, the couple failed to return home to Castle Road in Walsall Wood, and on January 30, 2015, Musadikur sent a phone message to his family saying he was not returning to the UK.
He later broke his hand caused by shrapnel in an air strike. Siddeka subsequently got pregnant and gave birth to a baby boy in Raqqa.
Musadikur called on his younger brother Mohammed Iqbal Hussain, 26, who ran the family All Season launderette in Caldmore, to sell his BMW, wedding watch, wedding clothes and wife’s gold to raise funds for him.
On March 23 and March 25 last year, his elder brother Mohamed Suyaubur Rohaman, 33, deposited £10,000 to bank accounts in Lebanon via Western Union.
Musadkiur also enlisted his friend Mohammed Atiqur Rahman Khan, 27, of Buckle Close, Caldmore, to take out credit cards in his name and value the family gold that would later be sold for £1,200.
Khan had also worked as a warehouse distributor as well as a self-employed accountant.
In Syria, Siddeka has given birth to a baby boy. Their first son passed away after just 11 days a few months before they traveled to live in the so-called Islamic State in Raqqa.
During a trial that concluded yesterday, Hussain, Rohaman, and Khan denied terrorism-funding charges, claiming they were trying to help Musadkiur and Siddeka return to Walsall from Syria.
But an elaborate series of mobile phone messages retrieved by counter terrorism detectives pulled the pieces of the jigsaw together and smashed the plot which was aiding one of the worst terrorist organisations known in the history of mankind.
The plan was revealed during two separate trials over seven months at the Old Bailey in London this year, but the connections could not be revealed until now.
Shaukat was jailed for 10 years for assisting terrorism, Nash was jailed for five years for planning acts of terrorism, Moore was jailed for two-and-half years for failing to tell authorities about the plan, and Thomason, 24, whose address cannot be revealed for legal reasons, was given a two-year suspended jail term for assisting in acts of terrorism.
Hussain, Rohaman, Khan were yesterday found guilty of terrorism funding charges by a jury of 10 men and two women.
Maruf Uddin, 26, of Earl Street, Palfrey, was cleared of one charge of entering a terrorism funding arrangement. It was alleged he put items on eBay for Hussain and Rohaman to raise funds for Musadikur in Syria.
His Honour Judge Mark Lucraft QC said the three men will be sentenced on September 9. The maximum sentence for the offences is 14 years in jail.
This year a total of seven people from Walsall have been convicted of Syria-related terrorism offences as part of a wider group of a dozen Muslims from the town who planned to travel to join ISIS in Syria.