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Last Updated: Monday, 30 April 2007, 10:55 GMT 11:55 UK
Profile: Shujah Mahmood
Five men have been convicted of planning a devastating bombing campaign in Britain. Shujah Mahmood, brother of the alleged lead conspirator, has been cleared after the jury accepted he was not involved.

Shujah Mahmood
Born 20 December 1986 Crawley, West Sussex
School in Crawley
Problems with reading and maths
Influenced by his older brother, Omar Khyam

Every alleged criminal conspiracy has to have its junior members, the gophers, who do the menial tasks.

That was supposedly Shujah Mahmood's role in what the prosecution said was a terrorist gang targeted by the security services in what became known as Operation Crevice.

But for the jury in the year-long trial, Shujah Mahmood was a young, lost man in the wrong place at the wrong time. They accepted his defence that he had unwittingly, found himself dragged into something he simply did not have the capacity to properly understand.

Shujah who was 16 when the alleged conspiracy began but turned 20 during the Old Bailey trial. He was the youngest member of those on trial - but he always denied knowing anything about a plot to build a bomb from fertiliser.

Shujah was present at conversations where his older brother and the alleged lead conspirator, Omar Khyam, discussed setting up a paramilitary training camp in Pakistan.

He was present when his brother allegedly talked about remote-controlled detonators with Canadian co-conspirator Mohammed Momin Khawaja, the prosecution saying he was looking at secret pictures of the device hidden in a webmail account.

And his fingerprints were also found on two key pieces of evidence found at the family home in Crawley - a list of synagogues and a bag holding aluminium powder hidden by a tumble dryer - another component for the alleged bomb.

'Slowly groomed'

But in each case, the defence argued that this was not evidence that he had the intentions of a terrorist.

I used to start crying because I missed my Mum a lot
Shujah Mahmood
Recalling his time in Pakistan
Baroness Kennedy QC, for Shujah, told the court that in many ways the teenager was being "slowly groomed" to become a jihadi activist.

Older men had shown the impressionable teenager videos of Muslim suffering around the world. But that "conveyor belt" towards terrorist action had stopped.

Baroness Kennedy argued that Shujah was "the gopher" who was used by his older brother to run errands.

His presence at critical points in the alleged conspiracy, including the paramilitary training camp in Pakistan, was not evidence of criminal intent - rather it was evidence of a hanger-on who had followed his brother because he had nothing better to do.

Shujah Mahmood and Omar Khyam
Shujah Mahmood, pictured as a boy with his brother Omar Khyam
During the defence, Baroness Kennedy QC said that while Shujah was at key meetings in the prosecution's case, he was in fact sitting there with headphones on, listening to excerpts from the Koran and trying to repeat them phonetically.

And when he took the stand, the 20-year-old struggled with to answer some of the questions being put to him.

At one point he recounted what he said was a miserable trip to Pakistan that led ultimately to the training camp in the Malakand region, near the Afghan border.

He did not have the right clothing for the trip high in the mountains, was unfit and thought many of the training exercises, such as firing AK-47 rifles, were stupid.

"The whole experience was really bad for me, I was on a downer and got depressed," he said.

"I was really despondent... I used to start crying because I missed my mum a lot."

Baroness Kennedy said: "Some people might think you were a soft boy from Crawley, was it what you were expecting?"

"No. I thought it would be marshmallows and the whole camping thing and Ray Mears bushcraft. But it was the worst experience I ever experienced," he replied.

Struggled in school

Shujah Mahmood was born and brought up in Crawley, a West Sussex town whose workforce serves nearby Gatwick airport.

Shujah attended Northgate Primary School and Hazelwick Secondary School, both of which were mainly white schools. He struggled educationally.


He lived with his parents in the Langley Green area of the town and got a Saturday job working at the Debenhams department store. Another job saw him working in shelf-stacking at the local Sainsbury's.

Suliman Raja, a neighbour, said his friend had poor literacy and numeracy skills - and went through a bad period on leaving school.

He fell into a routine of "general delinquency", said Mr Raja, staying out late, smoking cannabis and vandalising cars.

Shujah was neither particularly religious nor politically minded. His only obsession had been his 125cc motocycle, bought shortly before his arrest. He was, said Mr Raja, "a really nice guy with a sweet character, polite, respectful".

But crucially, Mr Raja said Shujah seemed to be dominated by his older brother, Omar Khyam who could be "quite stern" and would not let him watch MTV or American teenage comedies.

That concern was echoed in Baroness Kennedy's defence. Shujah's relationship with his older brother was key to understanding why he was in the dock, she argued. Khyam should feel guilty that Shujah had been dragged into the affair in the first place, she said.

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