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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - LONDON: A violent assault by three known terrorists inside a high-security jail must be a “wake-up call,” the UK government has been warned.
In May 2020, the trio — including Hashem Abedi, the brother of the man behind the Manchester Arena bombing — launched an “animalistic” joint assault on a prison officer.
They were being held at HMP Belmarsh’s high-security unit, described as a prison within a prison, alongside other terrorists and violent criminals at the time.
A court heard that attackers Abedi, Ahmed Hassan, and Muhammad Saeed associated with each other and other terrorist inmates, and that Abedi had been accused of being their leader.
Their trial is one of several court cases that have exposed terrorist networking inside HMP Belmarsh, with one plotter previously telling an undercover officer he was “surrounded by jihadis” who frequently discussed terror attacks and gave him trial advice, The Independent reported.
Ian Acheson, a former prison governor who carried out a government-commissioned review of Islamist extremism in jails, said he had raised security concerns with ministers.
“The HSU is supposed to be our most extreme custody, holding some of the most dangerous people in Western Europe,” he told The Independent.
“The fact that such a ferocious attack on staff could happen here is a huge security failure that ought to be a shocking wake-up call for ministers.”
Other Islamist extremists “came within seconds of murdering a prison officer at HMP Whitemoor earlier in 2020 — the public and prison staff will be entitled to know that they are properly protected from such offenders,” Acheson added.
The May 2020 assault on custodian manager Paul Edwards was not designated as a terror attack, and Woolwich Crown Court heard it followed a dispute about inmates’ privileges and the prison regime.
A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said: “Due to the criminal history of the defendants, the assault was investigated by the Counter Terrorism Command. However, there was no evidence of any terrorist intent.”
Several incidents in the previous months, including a mass brawl, had resulted in Muslim and non-Muslim prisoners being separated in the HSU and Abedi had made several allegations of unfair treatment.
Some prison officers believed that Abedi was trying to take a leadership role in the unit, after a powerful inmate was transferred elsewhere.
Abedi and the other two attackers were each handed three years or more on top of their existing sentences. Abedi was already sentenced to be behind bars for decades over the bombing of the Manchester Arena in 2017, which killed 22 people, many of them children.
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