This is the chilling picture of four Birmingham Muslims training for terror – at a Solihull paintballing center.
Trainee bricklayer Humza Ali has been convicted of trying to join ISIS after training for battle with other would-be Jihadis at Delta Force Paintballing in Hockley Heath.
Ali, a student at South and City College, posed for “promotional” pictures alongside Mohammed Ali Ahmed, Gabriel Rasmus and Abdelatif Gaini.
The Muslims, some of whom can be seen making the single-fingered salute of the so-called Islamic State , were all pictured together at a bonding event that took place seven months before border staff sent Ali back to Britain from Turkey.
A three-week trial at Birmingham Crown Court heard that 20-year-old Ali wanted to “fight until I die” in Syria and was covertly recorded telling a fifth ISIS sympathiser that his mother had confiscated his passport in 2013.
Ali was recorded by a covert device in December 2013 as he told a friend: “By Allah I’m so stressed. All I want to go there is just fight until I die – God willing.”
The “promotional” pictures of Ali with other would-be Jihadis can now be shown for the first time after a judge lifted restrictions that previously banned their publication.
The court heard Ali went paintballing with 27-year-old Ali Ahmed, from Coventry Road, Small Heath, who was jailed earlier this week for eight years for his part in handing £3,000 to Brussels “man in the hat” bombing suspect Mohamed Abrini in Small Heath Park.
The images, recovered from Ali’s phone, also showed him with Ahmed and Rasmus posing beside a tank at Delta Force in Cut Throat Lane, in June 2014.
Three of the men can be seen making the single-fingered salute as another unsuspecting paintballer sits in the foreground with her back to the camera.
Rasmus 29, of Chain Walk, Lozells, was jailed for four years at the Old Bailey last month after being arrested in April last year at Dover while en route to Syria to engage in terrorism.
Abdelatif Gaini, 41, the fourth man seen crouching near a military vehicle, is thought to be in Syria after leaving Birmingham to fight for the terrorist group.
During Ali’s trial, prosecutor Anne Whyte QC said the seemingly harmless paintball sessions were in fact preparation for battle.
She told jurors: “If you step back you will understand that for an inexperienced but committed young man like Humza Ali, who intends to leave his Western urban life for war in the Middle East, the opportunities for handling anything remotely resembling a type of firearm are extremely limited.
“Membership, for example, of a gun club might draw unwanted attention, but the occasional paintballing session with friends is ideal, however bizarre that may seem and at least enables the participant to handle a type of weapon and to take broad aim.”
She added: “Should you be in any doubt about the serious intent behind this activity in June 2014, you will be able to consider evidence which, we say, demonstrates that this was in fact a sort of training exercise and of itself an act of preparation.
“During it, the participants posed for photographs in quasi-combat gear, holding their paint-filled weapons, including Ali.
“In that sense they were able to use the occasion to take a sort of promotional photo sealing their common sense of identity.
“There is no coincidence about Ali’s chosen companions.
“It was a bonding act of preparation between men of like mind and like intent. They were doing what passed, in their limited circumstances, for training.
“Three including Ali have been thwarted in their plans to get to Syria.”
Ahmed paid for the paintballing exercise, added Miss Whyte, who told jurors that he had already pleaded guilty to an offence under the Terrorism Act.
Jurors convicted Ali, who will be sentenced in January, of attempting to travel to Syria for terrorist purposes via Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and also disseminating numerous video messages to other men showing beheadings and atrocities carried out by the so-called Islamic State.
He was also found guilty of sending a malicious communication after directing “abusive” anti-democracy messages at a local councillor.
Ali, who lives with his parents, told his trial he had no intention of travelling to Syria when he made his way by sea and air routes to Istanbul via Ireland in January 2015.
Ali Akbar Zeb, aged 19, from Northleigh Road, Birmingham, pleaded guilty at the start of the trial to three counts of distributing extremist literature – shared graphic images and videos via a Whatsapp group to promote Daesh.
ACC Marcus Beale, Counter Terrorism Lead for West Midlands Police, spoke after the case.
He said: “These men had a large amount of imagery, videos and documents on their phones, we also had evidence that Ali tried to get into Turkey for onward travel to Syria in order to fight for Daesh.
“We cannot underestimate the dangerous nature of the propaganda produced by Daesh and the influence it can have; which is why it is so important to hold to account those who share with others these social media posts.
“If anyone is concerned that a friend or family member is thinking of travelling to Syria it is very important that they tell us as soon as possible. Police and other agencies can offer support to help safeguard those who are vulnerable to radicalizers.
“The sooner we can intervene, the better chance we have of preventing young people from becoming embroiled in the conflict and facing potential prosecution.”
Ali and Zeb will be sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court on January 30.