The Daily Telegraph

Ajao was investigat­ed by MI5 over links to Luton army plotters

The Westminste­r attacker was assessed by the security service when they foiled car bombers in 2011

- By Martin Evans and Henry Bodkin

THE Islamist behind the Westminste­r terror outrage was investigat­ed by MI5 when they were working to uncover a plot to blow up an army base using a remote controlled car, The Daily Telegraph understand­s.

Adrian Ajao, 52, who killed four people, including a police officer, in last Wednesday’s attack, is believed to have come to their attention six years ago over his alleged connection­s to four alQaeda inspired terrorists.

Zahid Iqbal, Mohammed Sharfaraz Ahmed, Syed Hussain and Umar Arshad, were jailed for a total of 44 years in 2013, after admitting plotting to launch an audacious bomb attack on a Territoria­l Army base in their home town of Luton.

Ajao had moved to the town in 2009 following two stints in Saudi Arabia, and lived a few hundreds yards from one of the ringleader­s.

It is thought the fitness fanatic and body builder may have come into contact with members of the gang when they started preparing for jihad by attending a local gym.

Following last week’s attack, Theresa May, the Prime Minister, confirmed that Ajao – who changed his name to Khalid Masood after converting to Islam – had been investigat­ed by the security services for links to “violent extremism”.

However, after carrying out a risk assessment and looking into his background, it was decided he did not pose a terror threat.

Over the weekend more informatio­n began to emerge about Ajao’s recent movements.

As well as having two daughters from an earlier relationsh­ip with businesswo­man, Jane Harvey, with whom he lived in the village of Northiam, near Rye in East Sussex, Ajao also has a son and a daughter with his most recent partner Rohey Hydara.

It is understood they had been living together in Birmingham up until Christmas when Ms Hydara moved back to east London in order to look after her disabled mother.

During his time in Birmingham, the former English tutor had been receiving benefits, and neighbours said he did not work.

Last night police confirmed they had made a further arrest in connection with the Westminste­r attack after raiding a property close to Ajao’s Birmingham home. A 30-year-old man was being held on suspicion of preparatio­n for terrorist acts.

A 58-year-old man who was arrested in Birmingham on Thursday remained in custody, while a 32-year-old woman has been bailed.

Nine other people who had been detained as part of the investigat­ion have been released, with no further action being taken.

Detectives have been working around the clock to try to piece together Ajao’s complex background, and try to work out how a bright middleclas­s schoolboy ended up a bloodthirs­ty Islamic terrorist.

While the main focus of the investigat­ion has been to establish if he had any accomplice­s, police have also been looking into any links with extremists in the past.

It has now emerged that during his time living in Luton, Ajao was a close neighbour of Taimour Abdulwahab, the Swedish student who blew himself up in Stockholm in 2010 after becoming radicalise­d when he attended university in the Bedfordshi­re town.

He also lived just yards from Abu Rahin Aziz, the jihadi who was killed in a drone strike in the Isil stronghold of Raqqa in Syria in 2015.

But it is thought it was his associatio­n with the gang behind the remotecont­rolled car plot that first put him on the radar of the security services.

In 2010 MI5 began monitoring four Luton-based extremists after learning that they might be preparing for some sort of attack.

As part of a sophistica­ted surveillan­ce operation, agents bugged the men’s vehicles and overheard Iqbal, a married father of two, discussing driving a toy car carrying explosives under the gates of the town’s Territoria­l Army base.

In one conversati­on he was heard saying to accomplice, Ahmed: “At the bottom of the gate, there’s quite a big gap. If you had a little toy car, it drives underneath one of their vehicles or something.”

The group were also overheard discussing plans to attack MI5 headquarte­rs, a US Air Force base, an English Defence League gathering and a local shopping centre.

As part of their plans Ahmed, who lived less than a mile from Ajao, began attending a local gym.

He later led a series of military style training trips to Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons where they were monitored as they jogged in formation and used logs as mock weapons.

After months of surveillan­ce, the men’s homes were raided and they were all arrested in September 2011, just days before the tenth anniversar­y of the 9/11 attacks.

They were jailed in April 2013 after admitting having been inspired by alQaeda.

Mr Justice Wilkie QC said the men posed a significan­t risk to the public and jailed the ringleader­s, Iqbal and Ahmed for 16 years and three months each. Arshad received six years and nine months and Hussain was given five years and three months.

‘In Luton, Ajao was a close neighbour of the Swedish student who blew himself up in Stockholm in 2010’

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 ??  ?? Detectives are still trying to piece together Adrian Ajao’s complex background
Detectives are still trying to piece together Adrian Ajao’s complex background

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