Manhunt launched for two Afghan migrants ‘plotting to target London hotels, airport, and shopping centre’ after Italian police smash ISIS terror cell and arrest three
- Two Afghan migrants are suspected of planning terror attacks in Britain
- Surgul Ahmadzai, 28, and Qari Khesta Mir Ahmadzai, 30, are on the run
- The two suspects are believed to have fled to Kabul in Afghanistan
- Hakim Nasri, 23, was arrested on suspicion of international terrorism
- Also arrested in Italy were Gulistan Ahmadzai, 29, and Zulfiqar Amjad, 24
Two Afghan migrants suspected of planning terror attacks in Britain are on the run after police smashed a cell linked to Islamic State.
Surgul Ahmadzai, 28, is accused of scouting for targets in London before flying to Paris to meet Qari Khesta Mir Ahmadzai, 30, and on to Rome.
Three other members of their five-strong cell were arrested in Italy after pictures of suspected targets were discovered on their mobile phones.
Hakim Nasri, pictured holding what is believed to be a MS16 semi automatic rifle, who has been arrested by police and held on suspicion of international terrorism
This graphic shows suspected targets in Britain including several in east London’s Docklands, a hotel at West India Quay, the luxury Sunborn yacht hotel in Royal Victoria Dock and an Ibis hotel nearby.
These included London hotels, restaurants, a footbridge in Canary Wharf and the Emirates Air Line cable car over the Thames.
One of the hotels photographed was the Premier Inn at the busy Westfield shopping centre in Stratford, east London, around 200 yards from the Olympic Park.
It is suspected the cell was planning to exploit migrant routes into Europe and slip terrorists into the UK through Calais.
Another one of the alleged plotters, Hakim Nasiri, was described as a ‘human bomb’ after he was arrested on suspicion of international terrorism.
A picture of the 23-year-old Afghan posing with an MS16 semi-automatic rifle in a supermarket was among evidence seized by police.
There were reports that one of the terror cell’s members had hunted for an assault rifle in Britain for another suspect. Nasiri was apprehended at an Italian refugee centre.
He had been granted provisional political asylum on May 5, despite the fact that undercover detectives posing as refugees inside the camp had been trailing him since December.
Also arrested were Afghan Gulistan Ahmadzai, 29, and Pakistani Zulfiqar Amjad, 24, both of whom are suspected of aiding illegal immigration.
The pair still on the run are believed to have fled to Kabul in Afghanistan, after slipping through the net following their European trip in December.
They were able to visit seven cities in nine days paying budget airline fares in cash.
Nasri, pictured again with the weapon, was arrested with Gulistan Ahmadzai and they were detained in relation to an investigation into plans to stage terror attacks in Rome and London.
It is understood all five suspects had been granted refugee status in Italy, meaning they would have been able to take advantage of Europe’s open borders to move freely around the continent.
Italian police said the migrants had been handed documents equivalent to EU passports which enabled them to travel between countries in the Schengen zone – which does not include the UK.
The Home Office could not explain how Surgul Ahmadzai had been able to travel to Britain, and how long he had stayed.
The ease with which the suspects were able to fly around Europe will fuel claims that the continent’s open borders are a security risk.
Italian investigators detained four of the alleged terrorists briefly in December last year, including Nasiri and the pair now on the run.
The group were caught filming in a shopping centre in the southern Italian city of Bari.
Their mobile phones were seized, and police found photos of target sites including the local airport and a shopping centre.
But two days later, Surgul Ahmadzai and Qari Khesta Mir Ahmadzai left the country.
Other suspected targets in Britain included several in east London’s Docklands. A hotel at West India Quay was photographed, along with the luxury Sunborn yacht hotel in Royal Victoria Dock and an Ibis hotel nearby.
Pictures of the South Quay footbridge to Canary Wharf and the Premier Inn outside Westfield in Stratford were also discovered.
The cell was allegedly planning other attacks in France, Italy and Belgium, including on Rome’s Colosseum and the Circus Maximus – a chariot racing arena now used for music and sporting events.
Pictures of mutilated US soldiers were discovered on the phones, along with recordings of prayers to prepare recruits for martyrdom.
Nasri even had taken a selfie with who is believed to be the mayor of Bari, Antonio Decaro, during a march to show solidarity with immigrant citizens last September.
Investigators also found a list of prices for smuggling migrants into Europe and information about trafficking activity in Italy and Calais.
They said most of the group’s activities used Greece and Turkey as access points to Europe.
Police were unable to explain how two members of the cell were able to slip through the net.
Italian prosecutor Roberto Rossi told a news conference there was no evidence that an attack was imminent, ‘but it is clear they were making preparations’.
The suspects were all officially resident near Bari, the main city in Puglia, which has become a magnet for jihadis.
They allegedly provided logistical support to an international organisation linked to Islamic State, investigators claimed.
Of the mobile phone evidence, Mr Rossi said the large number of photos of certain sites ‘where tourists in general don’t take pictures… they assume an extremely strong meaning’.
The two arrested Afghans were described as ‘human bombs’ by Right-wing politician Roberto Calderoli of the Northern League.
The third arrested man, Amjad, was granted a residence permit on Monday and made immediate plans to travel to Calais for alleged smuggling activities. This was what prompted Italian police to swoop.
It is alleged that the pair had drawings of Canary Wharf in London, pictured, on their phones along with pictures of other potential ‘targets’