An Islamic State (IS) fighter captured in Syria confessed to have been recruited and radicalized while at the University of Westminster in the UK.
One terror operative identified as Zakariyya Elogbani reveals how he abandoned a degree in business management he was taking at the university in 2014 to join the IS in Syria. The captured fighter revealed that he is one of at least seven students and ex-students from University of Westminster to join the jihadist group.
Elogbani grew up in east London, was captured by Kurdish forces in Syria nine months ago alongside another fellow and former Westminster student, Ishak Mostefaoui.
Revelation by the two terror operatives brings to light, one Qasim Abukar, another hardened terror operative who previously fought for Al-Shabaab militant group in Somalia.
Abukar became a student at University of Westminster in September 2012 according the revelation given indicate he was a key recruiter and radicalizer at the University. Prior to joining the University, he was security services radar and even MI5 had warned that allowing Qasim Abukar more contact with fellow students would increase the risk he posed.
Abukar in 2009 was facing a trial which accused him of attempting to travel to Afghanistan for terrorism. He was however acquitted in his absence as he had travelled to Somalia.
In Somalia, a separate High Court learnt that Abukar was involved in fighting alongside Al-Shabaab and that he was recruiting fighters for jihadist groups for overseas operations.
In 2011, after a period in detention in Somalia, Abukar returned to the UK and was was placed on a control order and a Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measure, or TPIM, to restrict his movements.
Despite being described in court as having played a significant role in his jihadist network, Abukar began studying at University of Westminster a year later. In April 2013 he won an appeal to reduce one of the restrictions on his movements and this where his radicalization of fellow students started.
Reports gathered from a number of his former and fellow students, Abukar played a key role in radicalizing Elogbani and Mostefaoui currently detained in Syria.
Another key extremist at University of Westminster was Abukar’s brother Makhzumi. His was a terror fundraiser and his scheme was unearthed Scotland Yard’s Counter Terrorism Command, who suspected the money was being funneled to extremists in Syria.
Makhzumi is serving a seven-year jail term after pleading guilty in 2016 to a million-pound fraud to steal the savings of pensioners.
This is not the first time that students at the university have been linked to violent jihadism – the notorious IS killer Mohammed Emwazi, known as Jihadi John, studied there until 2009. Others include; Mohamed Jakir, who was killed in Syria, Akram Sabah, a recruitment consultant and his brother, Mohammed Sabah. The two were killed in fighting in September 2013 in Syria. Another three terror operatives also recruited by Abukar but since have been killed one, Ibrahim, who was killed in the siege of Raqqa, Abu Talha killed in the desert of Anbar and Abu Ubaydah was killed in Tikrit, Iraq.
Though some members of the university have denied that there was a culture of extremism, security experts, authors and reports indicate that the university failed to understand its duty of care around confronting and countering extremist views.
Meanwhile Elogbani who is still in detention in Syria has since been stripped of his British citizenship. In an interview with one credible media, he regrets joining and supporting the Islamic State.
Elogbani lost his two legs in what he says was a missile attack in 2015, he warns other people not to be attracted or tricked into extremism for the consequences are dire.