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A teen has admitted to planning an Islamist terrorist attack in London on police officers and military personnel

Matthew King, 19, is said to have surveyed an East Ham Army barracks, as well as Stratford Magistrates Court, police stations, and railway stations.

King, from Wickford in Essex, confirmed his identity and pleaded guilty to preparation of terrorist acts at the Old Bailey today (Friday, January 20). According to the defence’s written basis of the plea document, King “actively desired” to travel to Syria to areas controlled by IS to participate in their activities.

He had sought advice on the best route to take on social media and had discussed it in a WhatsApp group. He had revealed his plan to a person only identified as “JF,” and he had made videos expressing his admiration for IS. King admitted that if his plans to travel to Syria were thwarted, he would consider carrying out an act of terrorism in the UK.

He opened an online account with the retailer Knife Warehouse in December 2021 with the intention of purchasing a blade. He purchased “tactical” gloves and goggles from an army surplus store in March 2022. He photographed police officers in Stratford twice between March and May 2022, and filmed the side entrance of Stratford Police Station as he walked by a third time.

On May 17, last year, he shot a short film of the Stratford Army Barracks and briefly considered targeting someone connected to the military base. It was claimed on King’s behalf that his plans were at a very early stage and the prospect of an act of terrorism was “remote”.

However, in a written response obtained by the PA news agency, the prosecution stated that it would be up to the court to determine how far King’s plans had progressed. Although King had not purchased a plane ticket, he was said to have searched the internet for IS tactical training videos in the use of knives and purchased the gloves and goggles.

The prosecution rejected the defence’s claim that an attack on home soil would be a “fallback option” if King was unable to reach Syria. It was claimed that the target in the UK was likely to be police or members of the armed forces and that King may have been armed with a bladed weapon.

The prosecution noted King had filmed police officers outside Stratford Magistrates’ Court and at the railway station with some reconnaissance videos overlaid with nasheeds – Islamic chants – and comments such as “target acquired”.

The day before his visit to the Stratford barracks, King told JF how he planned to “torture, mutilate, and kill military personnel,” according to the prosecution. An anti-terrorist hotline had alerted authorities to King’s whereabouts.

Authorities were alerted to his behaviour after he posted a video on a WhatsApp group on April 13, last year, via an anti-terrorist hotline and the Prevent counter-terrorism programme.

It featured an image of a man holding a knife and the words, “Those who said there is no jihad and no battle. They are deceiving you! Our jihad will continue until we vanish on the day of judgement! The battle has now begun, and it will last until the day of judgement. So, young man, draw your sword and slay the kufr.”

On May 18, officers from the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command arrested King at his home and searched his phone. After being warned, he stated, “I don’t believe in UK law; the only law I believe in is Allah’s law.”

He was later charged with preparing a terrorist act between December 22, 2021 and May 17, 2022. Prosecutors claimed the plot was motivated by extremist Islamic beliefs.

Earlier in the proceedings, prosecutor Gillian Curl stated that no “specific act of terrorism” had been identified. “He was preparing for an act against either serving on-duty police officers or military personnel,” she said.

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