Belgian convicted of terror charge after handing cash to Brussels bomb suspect

The two Birmingham men, Zakaria Boufassil and Mohammed Ali Ahmed, are now facing lengthy jail terms when they are sentenced next week.

Zakaria Boufassil from Birmingham was found guilty at Kingston Crown Court of engaging in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism by providing 3,000 pounds to bombing suspect Mohamed Abrini at a secret meeting in a Birmingham park.

Zakaria Boufassil, 26, together with Mohammed Ali Ahmed, provided £3,000 to Abrini, who was nicknamed the "man in the hat" after being caught on CCTV at Brussels airport before the bombing in March.

The March 22 bombings at the Brussels airport killed 16 people.

Ahmed used a replacement debit card for the account to make 17 withdrawals between May 30 and June 30, 2015, and £3,000 of the cash was handed to Abrini in Small Heath Park, Birmingham, on July 11 previous year.

Abrini's involvement in the November 2015 Paris terror attacks remains under investigation by the French authorities but it could take another four years before he faces trial, according to Belgian prosecutors.

"He never told me that the person who was coming to get the money was a bad person".

Despite this, Abrini claimed that "neither in London, nor in Birmingham, nor in Manchester" had he been on any "reconnaissance trips in relation to preparatory terrorist attacks".

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Haddouchi had left the United Kingdom to join the terrorist group IS in Syria.

Boufassil acknowledged meeting Abrini in the park, but said the encounter had nothing to do with extremism.

Carlile told the Times that "several hundred thousand pounds in small remittances have been used to fund terrorism in one way or another", including for weapons and travel for those joining Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL). He had been on the radar of MI5 and on police bail when he helped Boufassil hand over the cash, having already impersonated Haddouchi to gain access to his bank account.

During his visit to Britain, travelling from Syria via Turkey, Abrini said he collected the money and visited casinos in Birmingham and in Manchester, northwest England.

Abrini, who had been sent from Syria to Britain by a member of his IS cell to collect the cash, is awaiting trial in Belgium.

Still, the jury endorsed prosecutors' claim that he knowingly provided the money for use in militant attacks.

West Midlands Police Assistant Chief Marcus Beale said the conviction was important because the money transfer "identified a risky link" to Abrini.

Lord Carlile, the former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, issued the warning the day after it emerged two men living in Birmingham handed thousands in wrongly-paid state handouts to terror suspect "The Man in the Hat".

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