LONDON (AP) — A judge on Friday sentenced a British teenager to 22 years in prison for plotting to behead a British soldier.
Judge Timothy Pontius concluded that Brusthom Ziamani, 19, would have carried out the attack had he not been stopped by police in east London. He had researched the location of army cadet bases and was carrying a 12-inch (30-centimeter) knife and a hammer.
Hours before being stopped, he had told his former girlfriend he would "kill soldiers" and described Michael Adebolajo, the killer of Fusilier Lee Rigby, as a "legend."
Raised by Jehovah's Witness parents, Ziamani converted to Islam early in 2014. His parents kicked him out of their south London home after his conversion to Islam, and he then turned to the mosque for help for clothes and a place to stay. He quickly became influenced by the radical group al-Muhajiroun.
Within months, he posted comments on Facebook proclaiming his willingness to "die in the cause of Allah."
"Sharia law on its way on our streets," he said. "We will implement it, it's part of our religion."
He denied planning a copycat atrocity and said his postings were an effort to fit in.
"I did not believe it," he said. "I wanted to fit in with these people because they were giving me places to stay and they did not like moderate Islam."
Police say the speed with which the teen born to Congolese parents turned to radical Islam was worrisome and illustrated the challenge facing authorities in dealing with radical groups.
"This case starkly illustrates one of the threats we currently face in the U.K.," said Commander Richard Walton of the Counter-Terrorism Command. "Ziamani was an impressionable young man who became radicalized, then rapidly developed an extremist, violent mindset."