Legal history has been made at Woolwich Crown Court with the conviction of a London Black cab driver for murder by being involved in bomb-making during the Iraq insurgency in 2007.
38 year old Anis Abid Sardar from Llanover Rd, Wembley has been found guilty of murder and conspiracy to murder on the basis of forensic evidence obtained from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) collected from the sites of explosions and ambushes.
The prosecution has been able to prove his involvement in making an IED that exploded under a US Army vehicle and killed an American soldier.
The investigation’s been carried out by officers from the Metropolitan Police Service’s (MPS) Counter Terrorism Command (SO15).
Detectives from SO15 pieced together forensic evidence from several IEDs recovered in Iraq.
They calibrated these with details of Sardar’s movements, putting him in the region at the time.
They proved he had possession of a bomb-making manual.
Commander Richard Walton, Head of the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command (SO15) said:
I hope that today’s verdict will bring some comfort to the family of Sergeant Johnson, who tragically lost his life in the service of his country.
This verdict demonstrates our resolve to convict anyone committing terrorism anywhere in the world, even if it takes us many years.
I hope that it further stands as a deterrent to those thinking today that they can undertake terrorist activity overseas without fear of the law. Over time circumstances change, and when and where we have evidence we will seek to bring them before a court.
I would also like to thank our colleagues in the FBI and TEDAC for their cooperation throughout this investigation, without which, this conviction would not have been possible.
The background- Iraq insurgency
On 19th March 2007 a US bomb disposal officer safely recovered an IED [device 1] in an area near to Camp Liberty in Baghdad, Iraq.
The device, which was wired up to pressure plates, was found to contain around 19 pounds of high explosives and deemed to be an anti-personnel device – in other words, designed to kill.
The following day, a similar IED [device 2] was also recovered a short distance away from the first, connected to two large cylinders containing around 60 pounds of high explosives.
As US soldiers attempted to secure the area where the second device had been found, they came under fire, and two servicemen were injured, receiving gunshot wounds, before the area was made safe and bomb disposal officers were able to safely remove the device.
On 27th September 2007 a US Army armoured vehicle patrolled through the same area, driving over pressure plates of another IED [device 3], which detonated under the vehicle.
The device blew a hole in the bottom of the vehicle, severely injuring four soldiers inside and killing Sergeant First Class Randy L. Johnson of the Stryker Cavalry Regiment.
On 14th October 2007 a further IED [device 4] was found buried close-by, also containing around 60 pounds of explosives.
A controlled explosion was carried out, causing an explosion cloud of approximately 150 feet.
The devices and remains were all collected and forensically analysed, firstly by experts based at the US military camp in Iraq and then, after they had been transported back to the US, by the FBI’s Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Centre (TEDAC).
In April 2014 Sardar’s fingerprints were discovered on one of the devices and SO15 were informed of the discovery.
Further investigation linked him to the other devices which also featured the fingerprints of Sajjad Adnan (who had previously been in custody in Iraq and handed over to Iraqi authorities, but whose current whereabouts are unknown).
The Met Police argued:
Although Adnan’s fingerprints alone featured on the device that killed Sergeant Johnson, given both his and Sardar’s prints were found together on other devices, coupled with the fact that the devices were found in close proximity to each other, it showed that the two of them were working together to produce the IEDs.
Forensic analysis helped to further strengthen the links between the IEDs, showing that the four devices all contained similar materials and were constructed in a similar fashion.
TEDAC experts showed that the tubing, metal plates, batteries, timers and wires that were recovered were all of the same type, shape or size.
This was verified by UK forensic experts, when the remains of the IEDs were transferred to the UK, once Sardar’s involvement became evident.
Sardar was arrested at his home address by SO15 officers on 23rd September 2014 and was charged the following day with conspiracy to murder and conspiring to cause an explosion with intent to endanger life or property.
Officers had previously searched Sardar’s address for unrelated matters in 2012, and it was during this search that they found files on his computer, which contained instructions on how to make bombs and explosives.
Detectives also made enquiries into his movements during 2007 and discovered that he had been in neighbouring Syria for around 10 years.
Passport records showed how Sardar returned to the UK on 22 November 2007 with a stamp from Damascus airport on 19 November, 2007 – less than two months after the IED killed Sergeant Johnson.
Sardar claimed he had travelled to Syria simply to learn Arabic, but it was there that officers believe he met up with Adnan and others to conspire together to make and deploy the IEDs in Iraq.
He denied all the charges against him.
He told the jury he became involved in the Iraqi insurgency to protect his fellow Sunni Muslims from Shia militias.
He said American soldiers had not been his targets, blaming instead ‘the likes of Dick Cheney, George Bush and Tony Blair’ for the deaths of US personnel.
He was stopped at Heathrow and his fingerprints were taken after he made his way back to the UK from Syria some two months after Sgt Johnson was killed.
Sardar is expected to be sentenced by Mr Justice Globe at Woolwich Crown Court tomorrow Friday 22nd May.