Police and MI5 set up a fake company called ‘Hero Couriers’ with a uniform and logo in order to hire Muslim terrorists who were using encrypted apps to communicate, a court has heard.

A group of Muslim terrorists who dubbed themselves the ‘Three Musketeers’ were planning a terror attack using a meat cleaver and pipe bomb in Birmingham.

But they were communicating using encrypted apps and ‘trade craft’ to plot their attack because they had previous terrorist convictions.

In a ‘joint investigation’ the security services rented a brick-built warehouse in Florence Street, Sparkhill in Birmingham, with large metal doors and an upstairs office, the Old Bailey heard.

They installed an undercover officer called Vincent as the manager and another, Haji, to help run the business and refuel the vehicles.

Drivers were employed and given polo shirts and high-viz jackets to wear with a ‘Heroes’ motif.

Speaking from behind a curtain with a Birmingham accent, the manager of the company, said he had called himself Vincent.

‘All the conversations I had with him were of a business nature,’ he told the jury.

Gareth Patterson QC, prosecuting, said the manager rang Khobaib Hussain, the main suspect, and told him he ran a courier company and believed that he was looking for work and looking at his CV.

‘You wanted to recruit drivers and wondered if he fancied attending for an interview?

‘You explained you were offering drivers zero hours contracts and payment of £100 a day?’ Mr Patterson said.

‘Yes,’ Vincent said.

Hussain was offered cash in hand and told the job was relocating luggage between airports, the jury heard.

When Hussain turned up for an interview on July 27 in his white Kia Picanto, he was told there was no parking at the depot.

‘I said there were several options, one was parking opposite in a pay and display car park but it was expensive and covered by CCTV,’ Vincent said.

‘If he parked outside it would almost certainly be ticketed or towed away. The other option was to give me the keys and I would move it inside.’

On the morning of July 30, Naweed Ali, the first defendant, called Vincent twice and then texted his name and date of birth as he also sought a job with the company.

On August 26, Vincent searched Ali’s black Seat Leon at the courier firm and found a JD Sports bag under the driver’s seat containing a meat cleaver with the word ‘KAFIR’ (infidel) scratched into the blade and an improvised pipe bomb.

Naweed Ali, 29, and Khobaib Hussain, 25, who lived next door to each other in Sparkhill and Mohibur Rahman, 32, from Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, deny they were plotting an ‘imminent’ attack, along with a fourth Muslim terrorist, Tahir Aziz, 38, also from Stoke.

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