UK prosecutors charge four Luton men with terror offences

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Four men who were arrested in a town near the British capital of London last week have been charged with a number of terrorism offenses, prosecutors said on Monday. A fifth man who was also arrested has been released without charge.

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), which is better known as Scotland Yard, said the four men are jointly accused of engaging in conduct in preparation of acts of terrorism, or assisting others to commit such acts, between January 2011 and April 2012.

It is alleged the men facilitated, planned and encouraged overseas travel for terrorism purposes; organized, encouraged and participated in physical training; purchased survival equipment; discussed methods, materials and targets for a terrorist attack, including firearms and improvised explosive devices (IEDs); and collected and supplied funds for terrorist purposes overseas.

The suspects were identified as 30-year-old Zahid Iqbal, 24-year-old Mohammed Sharfaraz Ahmed, 21-year-old Syed Hussain, and 23-year-old Umar Arshad. They were all arrested at four separate residential addresses in Luton, a large town about 27 miles (45 kilometers) northwest of London, on Tuesday last week.

"After carefully considering evidence gathered by the Metropolitan Police Service, I have concluded that there is sufficient evidence and that it is in the public interest to jointly charge Zahid Iqbal, Mohammed Sharfaraz Ahmed, Umar Arshad and Syed Farhan Hussain with an offence contrary to section 5 (1) of the Terrorism Act 2006," said Piers Arnold, specialist prosecutor from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division.

In addition to those charges, the four men are also charged with possessing documents containing information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism. The documents were identified as '44 Ways to Support Jihad', '21 Techniques of Silent Killing', 'The Al Qaeda Manual', 'The Book of Jihad', 'The Explosives Course 2', and all editions of al-Qaeda's English-language 'Inspire' magazine.

"After careful consideration the CPS concluded that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute a fifth suspect, and he was released without charge," Arnold said. The four accused were scheduled to appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court later on Monday afternoon.

If convicted, the men face up to life imprisonment for the charge of engaging in conduct in preparation of acts of terrorism. The charges for possessing the terrorism documents carries a maximum sentence of ten years in prison.

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