LONDON (AP) — A British jihadi who joined a terrorist training camp in Syria then faked his death in an attempt to sneak back to England was sentenced Friday to 12 years in prison.
Imran Khawaja, 27, left Britain last January to attend a training camp linked to the Islamic State group. During his six-month stint he appeared in the group's online propaganda videos, posing with a man's severed head and dead fighters. Police said he also featured in a video documenting daily life at the camp, encouraging others to join him.
Khawaja's lawyer said the he wanted to return to Britain because he had "had enough" of the camp. The jihadi spread false news of his own death on Twitter and Instagram, saying he was killed in battle, and his death was reported in several newspapers. His plan was foiled when he was arrested along with his cousin in June by port officials as they tried to enter England from the southern town of Dover.
Passing sentence, Justice Jeremy Baker said Khawaja, a former immigration center worker, was a risk to the public and described him as a "willing and enthusiastic" participant in extremist recruitment films.
"You took part in the production of films designed to promote the Islamic State cause and encouraging U.K. Muslims to join you in jihad," he said. "Your interest was sufficiently profound for you to travel to Syria to train for jihad."
Khawaja, from London, admitted preparation of terrorist acts, attending a terrorism training camp, receiving weapons training and possessing a firearm for terrorism use.
He will serve a minimum of eight years. His cousin, 45-year-old Tahir Bhatti, was sentenced to 21 months after admitting assisting Khawaja.
British officials say hundreds of Britons have joined extremists in Syria. Police say the number of arrests for suspected Syria-related terror offenses jumped six-fold last year.