A London court jailed a British man for life on Friday for traveling to Syria to join the Islamic State group nearly a decade ago.
Judge Mark Lucraft handed Shabazz Suleman, from High Wycombe northwest of London, the prison term for making his way to Syria to enlist in the terror group, which is barred by English law.
“You went to Syria in order to join IS. You understood IS was a proscribed organization in English law,” the judge said as he passed sentence at London’s Old Bailey criminal court.
“Your ambition was to become a sniper,” he noted.
Suleman, 27, pleaded guilty last month of preparing acts of terrorism by traveling from the U.K. to Turkey in August 2014, when he was 18, to join IS in Syria.
He disappeared while on a family holiday to Turkey, which borders Syria and has long been a gateway to the war-ravaged country for Western would-be jihadists.
Suleman was arrested at Heathrow Airport in September 2021 and charged with various terror offenses, including receiving training in the use of firearms as well as belonging to a proscribed organization.
Suleman will serve a minimum term of nine years and six months under the life sentence.
Tried to desert IS
Prosecutor Duncan Atkinson told the court that while attempting to travel to Syria, Suleman was held by Turkish forces before opting to be part of a prisoner swap with IS.
Once inside Syria, he posted on social media about his experiences in IS territory and later gave incriminating interviews to Britain’s Sky News.
Later he became disenchanted with jihadism and tried to desert the terrorist group, the court was told.
Following the collapse of IS, he was taken captive by a faction of the Free Syrian Army in 2017, before being transferred to Turkey and then Pakistan.
His lawyer, Abdul Iqbal, said Suleman had been an “immature and idealistic” young man who wanted to help people “in distress” and who participated in “non-combat duties” with IS.
He added that his client had decided within five months of joining the terrorist organization that he wished to flee.