Muslim Leader Jailed For Life After Hiring Hitman To Kill Mosque Rival

From The-Guardian:
A Muslim leader has been jailed for life after hiring a hitman to execute his rival in cold blood following a bitter dispute over control of a controversial mosque.

Khalid Rashad, 63, a Muslim convert, is the brother of Liz Mitchell, the lead singer in the 1970s band Boney M, famous for disco hits such as Rivers of Babylon, Rasputin and Daddy Cool.

She appeared as a character witness in his trial, held in January this year, explaining how they had grown up in a large Christian family in Jamaica.

The case can finally be reported at the end of a second trial in which Rashad was convicted of possessing military-grade plastic explosives and rounds of ammunition at his home, yards from Wembley stadium.

In the first case, Abdul Hadi Arwani, 48, was found slumped in the driver’s seat of his VW Passat in a street in Wembley, north London, with the engine still running and bullet wounds in his chest in April last year.

There was speculation that the preacher could have been murdered by a Syrian hitman when it emerged that he had been a vocal opponent of the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

But police identified the killer as Leslie Cooper, 38, a former soldier from Harlesden, north-west London, who was born in Jamaica and had served with the Princess of Wales regiment in Iraq.

Detectives were able to track down Cooper because he had topped up an unregistered phone in a shop in Harlesden High Street and then walked to a nearby shop to top up a British Gas card, which had his name on it.

His phone was geo-located and then he was tracked on CCTV as he walked along the road to the second shop.

When officers searched Cooper’s house, DC Matthew Rogers found a Mac-10 submachine gun, with its magazine and the silencer still attached, in a Marks & Spencer bag in a wicker picnic basket in the bedroom wardrobe.

“On any reading, this was a serious bit of kit,” Jonathan Rees QC, prosecuting, told Kingston crown court.

It emerged that Cooper had been hired by Rashad, formerly known as Burnell Mitchell, who had been involved in running the An Noor Cultural Centre in Acton, west London, for 20 years.

Arwani worked in the construction business with Rashad and the pair had set up the mosque together, with Arwani acting as imam.

However, the pair had fallen out and Rashad had changed the locks, causing Arwani to retaliate by suing Rashad for ownership of the building.

Investigators believe that money played a part because the premises had quadrupled in value in a decade in the London property boom and were said to be worth £3m-£4m.

The mosque had also come under scrutiny from MI5 after a series of incidents, including a male terrorist suspect escaping from the premises dressed in a burqa and another person linked to the mosque who was killed in Syria.

The mosque had also hosted a number of controversial speakers, including one of the sons of the radical imam Abu Hamza.

Rashad knew Cooper from the building trade and the pair met up at Rashad’s home in Monks Park, Wembley, on 2 February 2015, when the plot is said to have been hatched.

Three days later, Rashad messaged Cooper: “Hi bra mi want that ting del with.”

Cooper replied: “Yeah mon, mi a go mek it happen.”

They met up at 2pm on 13 February near the mosque and an hour and a half later Cooper sent four images of a Mac-10 submachine gun on his Blackberry to a girlfriend in Jamaica.

The weapon and its magazine and silencer were laid out on Cooper’s distinctively patterned duvet, helping police identify where the pictures were taken.

He also sent her an audio file referring to the weapon as “big dog” and asking if she could “see the boss” before pulling the trigger so that she could hear the click.

Cooper posed as “John” to hire Arwani for a building job and turned up in gloves and a woolly Manchester United hat, although it was a hot day.

But when Arwani turned up with his son, who was going to help him with the quote, Cooper called the hit off and made an excuse about not having the right keys.

He tried again two days later, using another unwitting girlfriend as a getaway driver, asking her to give him a lift back from a job.

As she waited for him in her silver VW Eos, she listened to music and put on her makeup in Greenhill, not far from where the shooting took place.

A mother and her daughter were returning from a doctor’s appointment when they realised that a man they thought was asleep in his car had actually been shot five times.

The suburban street was littered with spent and live cartridges and Arwani had wounds to his neck, lung, heart, stomach and liver.

During the search of Rashad’s ramshackle end-of-terrace house in Monks Park, Wembley, counter-terrorism police found 226g of PE4 plastic explosives in a knotted Tesco carrier bag on a cardboard box in the garage.

In a Chanel shoebox, on a shelf in the garage, were a number of Islamic audio cassettes, along with five 8mm modified blank rounds.

Sentencing Rashad and Cooper to life in jail with a minimum of 32 years, Mr Justice Singh said the murder had been planned over a “significant period of time”.

“On any view this was a shocking killing of a man in cold blood on the streets of London during the daytime,” he added.

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