Sheffield man jailed after planning to join Islamic State terrorists in Iraq

Shivan Azeez Zangana
Shivan Azeez Zangana

A Sheffield man who fought with Kurdish rebels in Iraq planned to switch sides and join up with Islamic State on his return to the country, a court heard.

Refugee Shivan Azeez Zangana, 21, of Washington Road, Sharrow, who uses the surname Azeez, was sent to Sheffield by his family to keep him safe after battling Islamic extremists with the Kurdish separatist group.

But Azeez, a former Peshmerga soldier, was radicalised in Britain and made arrangements to join Islamic State terrorists. He was caught sleeping in a Birmingham Mosque back in May, 2016 alongside co-defendant and fellow Kurdish asylum-seeker Aras Hamid, 27, who turned him.

Kingston Crown Court in London heard the pair were discovered 17 days after Azeez's worried relatives called police in Sheffield with concerns about what he was planning.

Another relative claimed Aziz had told people who was going to sacrifice himself to God. Worried relatives told officers Aziz’s behaviour had recently changed and he had stopped going out and listening to music and was only listening to readings from the Quran.

He had fled his Sheffield home and bought a plane ticket from Gatwick to Sulaymaniyah in northern Iraq. Extremist material was later discovered on an iPad and iPhone he tried to post to the war-torn country.

Azeez dramatically collapsed in the dock after being jailed for three years, but was able to leave unaided after a few minutes.

Moments earlier Judge Peter Lodder QC had told him: "I accept that you were radicalised by Hamid but the material retained on your electronic devices that you attempted to send unaided to Iraq reveals your own commitment.

"Having seen you in the witness box it is clear you are not particularly vulnerable."

Hamid, who was initially released after the Birmingham mosque raid, was discovered two days later hiding in a lorry on the A2 near Dover, Kent, while trying to smuggle himself out the UK using a Bulgarian passport.

Azeez's lawyer, Anthony Barraclough, told Tuesday's sentencing hearing: "In Birmingham and other parts of our country are terrorists who are part of a nest of rats.

"Azeez, whatever he intended by the jury's verdict, did fight on our side in the Peshmerga.

"It is said that Hamid is significantly responsible for the radicalisation of Azeez, who's vulnerability arises from being displaced from his position in the Peshmerga in Kurdistan.

"Here is a young man who is vulnerable and falls in the nest."

Both Azeez and Hamid were also ordered to serve an extended period of 12 months on licence at the end of their prison sentence.

A third man, Ahmed Ismail, 19, of Portwrinkle Avenue, Coventry, was convicted of failing to disclose information about acts of terrorism and jailed for 18 months.

Chief Superintendent Sue Southern, Head of the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit said: “As a result of enquiries, counter-terrorism investigators discovered Hamid’s instrumental role in organising travel plans for himself and Azizz for preparation for acts of terrorism. We also uncovered examples of Hamid’s extreme ideology and radicalisation and the pivotal role he played in orchestrating the travel plans for himself and Aziz.

“Evidence shows Ismail, a student, was in contact with Hamid and was well aware of plans to travel to the conflict zone.

“There is always a danger that people travelling to Syria and Iraq will be trained and come back and be a threat to the UK. We also need to be aware of the far reaching effects on local communities and the families of those involved.

“In recent months we have seen the dangers of trained terrorists returning to Europe to commit acts of terrorism which emphasises how important it is for officers to prevent travel.”

She continued: “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 radicalisers.

“The sooner we can intervene, the better chance we have of preventing people from becoming embroiled in the conflict and facing potential prosecution."