A Teenage Girl Is on Trial for Plotting a Terror Attack at the British Museum

The court at the Old Bailey hears that Safaa Boular, her older sister and mother plotted further Islamist attacks in central London.

The British Museum. Photo ©the Trustees of the British Museum
The British Museum. Photo ©the Trustees of the British Museum

An 18-year-old woman is on trial in London’s Old Bailey, charged with plotting a gun and grenade attack on the British Museum. Safaa Boular allegedly decided to become a “martyr” at age 17 after her militant Islamist fiancé was killed in Syria.

The prosecution told the court on Thursday, May 10, that Boular had discussed and prepared an attack on random members of the public at the museum, reports the Guardian.

Boular was radicalized via social media and decided to become a jihadi bride to Naweed Hussain in August 2016, prosectors said. “Their plan then was that together they would, as Hussain put it, depart the world holding hands and taking others with them in an act of terrorism,” prosecutor Duncan Atkinson said during opening arguments. 

Boular was prevented from traveling to Syria, after which she continued to communicate with Hussain through Telegram, the encrypted messaging service, discussing an attack in London instead. Jurors heard that British security services engaged in online conversations with them. Atkinson said that in those conversations, “both Hussain and Safaa Boular talked of a planned ambush involving grenades and/or firearms.” Further, Boular told a specially trained officer posing as an Islamist militant that all she needed was “a car and a knife” to achieve her goal.

When Boular discovered that Hussain had been killed in Syria in April 2017, she was allegedly encouraged by her mother and sister to become “a martyr.” However, within days, she was charged with planning to go to Syria, after which she allegedly enlisted her older sister’s help in staging an attack on home soil, the court heard.

The jury was told that her sister, 21-year-old Rizlaine Boular, had already admitted to plotting with their mother Mina Dich, 43, to attack the Palace of Westminster. The older sister had also attempted to go to Syria two years ago.

The prosecutor told the court that Safaa Boular’s “sincere and determined” intentions were demonstrated “by the fact that she did not abandon them even when she was unable to put them into effect herself.”

An attack such as that which was allegedly planned would have caused at least “widespread panic” and meant to cause “injury and death,” the court was told.

Safaa Boular denies the two counts of preparing acts of terrorism she is charged with. Her defense attorney, Joel Bennathan, said that she had been “sexually groomed” and “groomed to be radicalized” online, according to the BBC.

Visitors to the British Museum currently have to go through security screening in security tents outside both entrances to the museum, during which bags are routinely searched.

A British Museum spokesperson told artnet News: “The security of our visitors, staff and collection is paramount and a broad range of security mitigation is in place across the British Museum site,” adding, “We keep our security response under continual review, especially when cultural and heritage centres elsewhere are threatened. We regularly consult with the Metropolitan Police and other intelligence services to ensure our security response is appropriate to protect visitors, staff and collection.”

The trial of Safaa Boular is ongoing. 

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