UK man sentenced to life for trying to join Islamic State in Syria
A UK court jailed a British man for life on Friday for travelling to Syria to join the Islamic State group nearly a decade ago.
Judge Mark Lucraft handed Shabazz Suleman, from High Wycombe northwest of London, the prison term for making his way to Syria to enlist in the terror group, which is illegal under English law.
"You went to Syria in order to join IS. You understood IS was a proscribed organisation in English law," the judge said as he passed sentence at London's Old Bailey criminal court.
"Your ambition was to become a sniper," he noted.
Suleman, 27, pleaded guilty last month to preparing acts of terrorism by travelling from the UK to Turkey in August 2014, when he was aged 18, in order to join IS in Syria.
He disappeared while on a family holiday to Turkey, which borders Syria and has long been a gateway to the war-ravaged country for Western wannabe jihadists.
Suleman was arrested at Heathrow Airport in September 2021 and charged with various terror offences, including receiving training in the use of firearms as well as belonging to a proscribed organisation.
But those two charges were left to sit on file after the prosecution said his guilty plea addressed them.
Suleman will serve a minimum term of nine years and six months under the life sentence.
Prosecutor Duncan Atkinson told the court that while attempting to travel to Syria, Suleman was held by Turkish forces before opting to be part of a prisoner swap with IS.
Once inside Syria, he posted on social media about his experiences in IS territory and later gave incriminating interviews to Britain's Sky News.
He later became "disenchanted" with jihadism and tried to desert the terrorist group, the court heard.
Following the collapse of IS, he was taken captive by a faction of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in 2017, before being transferred to Turkey and then Pakistan.
His lawyer Abdul Iqbal said Suleman had been an "immature and idealistic" young man who wanted to help people "in distress" and who participated in "non-combat duties" with IS.
He added that his client had "firmly" decided within five months of joining the terrorist organisation that he wished to flee.