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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 January 2008, 12:44 GMT
The web war waged from a bedroom
By Steve Swann
BBC News

Police and intelligence agencies across the world believe that the case of Younes Tsouli - who was jailed in London last year for inciting terror over the internet - offers dramatic evidence of how extremists are using the web to radicalise young Muslims.

Undated police picture of Younis Tsouli
Younis Tsouli described himself online as Terrorist 007

From his bedroom in Shepherd's Bush in West London, Tsouli, who called himself "Terrorist 007," was linked to alleged terror groups in Bosnia, Scandinavia, Canada and the United States.

He also had links to a number of Britons who have been jailed recently for terror offences.

When he was arrested by police in 2005, they had no idea that he had become one of the most notorious cyber-jihadists in the world.

Tsouli had been talent-spotted by al-Qaeda in Iraq, whose leaders needed someone to distribute footage of suicide bombings and beheadings.

"007 came at this with a Western perspective," says international terrorism consultant Evan Kohlmann. "He had a flair for marketing and he had the technical knowledge and skills to be able to place this stuff in areas on the net where it wouldn't get easily erased."

Suicide bombers

Tsouli set up websites to publish jihadi literature and offer practical advice on the making and using of explosives. He advised would-be suicide bombers who wanted information about how to get into Iraq. His computer hard drive provided a litany of hateful web chat with extremists from dozens of countries.

Tsouli's bedroom in West London
Tsouli became a notorious cyber-jihadist from his bedroom in London
More worrying still were Tsouli's links to groups alleged to be planning terrorist attacks. He was in contact with men living in Scandinavia who claimed to represent al-Qaeda in Northern Europe.

In autumn 2005, they travelled to the Bosnian capital Sarajevo to carry out suicide attacks on Western military targets. Police disrupted the plot and when they analysed the mobile phone records of the ringleader, they found the last number dialled was to a number registered to an address in West London.

This was Younes Tsouli's flat. When British anti-terrorism police officers arrested Tsouli and searched his laptop they found an evidence-trail spanning the globe.

It led to arrests in North America. Seventeen Muslims in Toronto were accused of planning a bombing campaign. Some are alleged to have used password-protected web forums run by Tsouli and his co-conspirators.

International links

The FBI also arrested two American Muslims who, it is alleged, met members of the Toronto group to discuss hitting targets in the US. The two men then travelled to Washington DC, where they shot footage of the World Bank and the Capitol building. They e-mailed this to Tsouli. Police say it was reconnaissance of targets for attack.

At-Tibyan webpage
The Tsouli cell ran the At-Tibyan website

Robert Mueller, director of the FBI, uses the Tsouli case as an example of how counter-terrorism policing has to adapt to new realities: "We are seeking terrorist leaders in foreign bases, lone actors in suburban basements, and also small but sophisticated groups who want to carry out terrorist attacks. The threat exists not only in the mountains of Pakistan, but also in the shadows of the internet."

Since Tsouli was convicted, it has emerged that he also had links to British Muslims who have recently been found guilty of terrorism offences. The common link is the website At-Tibyan, which the Tsouli cell ran.

Yassin Nassari was a regular user of the site. He was convicted of storing instructions on how to make rocket launchers. From his home in Scotland, Mohammed Siddique published extremist websites. He, too, is now in prison. As are a group of students from Bradford University who used the internet to develop plans to travel overseas for terror training.



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