Is this Britain's most dangerous family?

Is this Britain’s most dangerous family? Two brothers who fought for Isis in Syria. Another jailed for life here. One more brother, a sister (and her husband) put in UK prisons for spreading hate — and the list goes on

  • Last week, Sahayb Abu, 28, was jailed for life for plotting an Islamic-State inspired attack
  • Several of Abu’s family members have also been convicted under terror laws, including his half-brother Ahmed, Ahmed’s sister Asma and Asma’s husband
  • Two brothers from the family also went to fight for ISIS in Syria, where they are believed to have been killed 
  • Commander Richard Smith, head of the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command, said it was ‘extraordinary’ that they all came from the same family

Sahayb Abu, 28, was jailed for life last week for plotting an Islamic State-inspired attack

Four years ago and in the run‑up to Remembrance Day three young men headed to a high street in an East London suburb to put up some posters.

The design featured a red poppy — but this was no patriotic gesture. Closer inspection revealed images of a skull and Union Flag in the centre of the flower, alongside which were the silhouettes of five black warplanes.

‘British terror: lest we forget,’ read the accompanying slogan. ‘Britain uses your tax money to kill Muslims in Muslim lands. Don’t betray your ummah [community] — do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies.’

The message could not have been clearer — ‘them’ against ‘us’. That such a sentiment could have been expressed so brazenly in 21st‑century Britain will shock many.

But what is even more shocking is how such views had come to infect a whole family, with consequences not just for them but for wider society. 

Because the three fly-posting on that day were all related: brothers Sahayb and Muhamed Abu, and their half-brother Ahmed Aweys. 

While not charged with any offence over the poster, all would subsequently go on to find themselves in the dock for terror offences.

Last week, 28-year-old Sahayb was jailed for life for plotting an Islamic State-inspired attack. 

BROTHER

MUHAMED ABU, 32

During Sahayb’s trial, Muhamed likened the brothers’ dynamic to that of Liam and Noel Gallagher — claiming that while Sahayb ‘talked big’, he quietly tried to ‘better’ himself.

In court he also tried to distance himself from other family members, branding himself ‘the dark sheep of the family’.

He told police in his interview that he had little interest in Islam, and spent his time ‘smoking cannabis’ and ‘fornicating’.

He had attempted to get on the straight and narrow by studying to be a plumber, he said, but continued to flout religious practices such as fasting.

Along with Sahayb, he was jailed for two years for conspiracy to burgle a jewellery shop and released at the same time as his brother.

In the latest trial, he was found not guilty of failing to disclose information about acts of terrorism under the Terrorism Act 2000.

Having purchased a gladiator-style sword, balaclava and combat vest, he spent last summer planning to go on a bloody rampage. 

His brother Muhamed, 32, stood trial alongside him but was cleared of failing to warn police about the plot.

As for Ahmed Aweys (although he has a different surname he shares a father with the Abu brothers), he was jailed in 2019 for 25 months for sharing vile Isis videos and radical material that proclaimed: ‘We are the enemy within.’ 

His sister Asma and her husband were also sent to prison for related offences at the same time. And the roll-call of family infamy (in total there are 17 children) does not stop there. 

Five siblings — plus a brother-in-law — have been linked to Isis with three more siblings whose behaviour is, to say the least, highly questionable.

In 2015, two brothers went to Syria to fight for Islamic State. They have not been heard of since. One is believed to have died in an airstrike and another killed by a bullet to the head.

Clearly undeterred by their fate, another sister was recently stopped trying to leave the country to travel to Morocco with a number of the family’s children while using someone else’s passport. 

HALF BROTHER 

AHMED AWEYS, 35

The family’s views were first revealed after a tip-off that Ahmed and his two half-brothers were planning the jewellery shop burglary. During searches of their homes, police found £60,000 in cash — £20,000 of it in a bag with Ahmed’s identity papers — and £10,000 in gold.

Ahmed received a community sentence for his part in the attempted break-in.

But during their investigation police discovered that the family were sharing Isis propaganda.

Ahmed had sent an Isis online magazine and a video showing brutal executions, battle footage and references to attacks in the West to Muhamed Abu saying: ‘Tell the world.’

Ahmed was given a 25-month jail sentence for disseminating terrorist publications but was released in August 2019. He later pleaded guilty to two charges of breaching notification order requirements and was ordered to serve the rest of the original sentence.

Not forgetting the teenage brother whose social media messages formed part of the latest trial, and who was arrested but not charged.

‘Extraordinary,’ as Commander Richard Smith, head of the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command, put it when asked about the fact they all came from the same family.

‘Nobody is born with hatred and intolerance in them. That has to come from somewhere, some malign influence to start that process happening,’ he said. 

‘Certainly, being in proximity to people of the same mindset — and it would appear in this family there may have been several of a similar mindset — would certainly enforce some of those intolerant, bigoted and hate-filled beliefs. But exactly what that malign spark or influence was we do not conclusively know.’

What we do know is that the story begins in the early 1990s with the arrival in the UK of Aweys Abu Munye from Somalia. Now aged 66, how he came to set up home in East London is unclear.

But at the time refugees fleeing the Somali civil war headed to Europe, with Britain becoming the favourite place to seek asylum.

His three-month-old son Sahayb was with him, as were a number of his other children. And, it was claimed, not one but two wives.

‘It wasn’t a secret, but I remember as I grew older I realised it wasn’t allowed by British law,’ Sahayb would tell the Old Bailey during his trial last month.

SISTER OF AHMED

ASMA AWEYS, 32

The mum-of-two was jailed alongside her brother Ahmed in 2019 after praising the Westminster and Manchester Arena terror attacks.

On the family WhatsApp group, Asma had branded Ariana Grande (at whose concert the Manchester bomber struck) ‘the devil’ and described the 2017 Westminster atrocity as an act ‘by the decree of Allah’. 

Police found she had downloaded copies of an Isis magazine that included instructions on how to make napalm and Molotov cocktails.

She claimed in court to have been ‘genuinely shocked by her arrest’. She was jailed for 19 months for collecting terrorist information.

Setting up home in two houses ten minutes apart in the East London borough of Redbridge, one family comprised five boys and four girls, and the other four boys and four girls. 

‘We’d sleep in the same bed sometimes, kick the same ball, ride the same bikes,’ Sahayb said.

It was, he claimed, a strict and violent upbringing, alleging that the Koran was ‘battered’ into him by his father. 

‘Leather belts, ruler, curtain wires, wooden spoons, punches, kicks and slaps,’ he said. ‘I’m quite small, he’s quite big, physical beats.’

A pupil at Mayfield School in Dagenham, Sahayb dreamt of becoming a rapper and started drinking and taking drugs. 

Having flunked his GCSEs, he ran away to France. He spent three and a half years there, including time in jail for drugs offences. 

When he returned to London in 2014, he told the court, his father had divorced both women and moved into a flat in a council block with his library of religious books.

(When approached by the Daily Mail for comment, Mr Munye said he did not speak good English. He directed us to another of his daughters who said the family had nothing to say on the matter.)

By then Sahayb had become addicted to gambling, using ‘honest and dishonest’ sources for funds.

In February 2018, he and his brother Muhamed, were caught by an MI5 team trying to break into a jewellery store. 

They were convicted of conspiracy to burgle and jailed for two years. Sources claim it was suspected the burglary was to raise funds for terrorism. 

ASMA’s HUSBAND

ABDULAZIZ MUNYE, 29 

Munye taught Arabic and claimed to be a freelance graphic designer. He married Asma in 2014. The couple had two young boys who were taken into care for two months after their parents’ arrest.

In a strange coincidence, the couple lived in the same street in Edmonton, North London, as the family of radical preacher Omar Bakri Mohammad, who was banned from Britain in the wake of the 7/7 bombings. Munye shared his wife’s views and admitted sending an Isis propaganda video to Ahmed.

The appalling footage showed brutal executions, battle scenes and references to attacks in the West.

He was sentenced to 15 months behind bars in 2019 for distributing terrorist propaganda.

But police investigating the plot also found terrorist propaganda on the mobile devices of Ahmed Aweys, his sister Asma and her husband Abdulaziz Munye, all of whom were subsequently jailed.

While in jail, Sahayb was in contact with well-known convicted jihadists, raising security services’ concerns. 

Within weeks of his release from jail in March last year, an undercover officer made contact with him online. 

They met after Sahayb boasted about the terrorists he knew in jail and talked about buying a gun. 

Obsessed with knife attacks, he downloaded Isis videos and, aided by a £100 Universal Credit Covid payment, bought equipment including two balaclavas, body armour, gloves, a camouflage hat and two blades, one an 18‑inch sword he paid extra to have sharpened.

Jurors were shown messages between Sahayb, his brother Muhamed and a teenage half-brother sharing extremist material and views. ‘Inshallah [hopefully] Allah will make us action men and not chatty men,’ Sahayb wrote in a three-way chat group on June 17.  

‘The caravan [of Isis fighters] left without us but inshallah our time will come.’  

BROTHERS OF AHMED AND ASMA 

WAIL & SULEYMAN AWEYS, DIED AGED 20 and 18

The brothers are believed to have travelled to Syria in 2015 to fight with Isis. Wail was 20 at the time and Suleyman aged 18 and with a place at university.

Wail is understood to have been killed in an air strike and Suleyman shot in the head.

In his evidence, Sahayb described the pair as being devoutly religious while he was growing up. But by 2015 they had become radicalised. 

Sahayb said that news that they had died had left the family ‘shattered’, describing to the jury how their mother had ‘withered like a prune’ after they died.

He also rapped about the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby (who died in 2013) and sang a tune ending with the words ‘would you hold on to the black banner’, an apparent reference to the Isis flag.

His defence in court? That he was simply trying to create a comical rap parody act called The Masked Menace.

He also maintained he was a humanitarian and, inspired by videos of gardener Alan Titchmarsh, planned to launch an agricultural charity called Islamic Growth.

Found guilty of planning a terror attack by jurors last month, last week Sahayb was jailed for life and ordered to serve a minimum of 19 years. 

Sentencing him, Judge Mark Dennis QC said that he ‘of all people’ should have learnt from the fate of his younger brothers and jailed relatives. 

‘Instead, within weeks of your own release from prison, you had sought out and joined other extremists committed to supporting and promoting that same violent cause, and within no time you were getting ready to carry out your own act of violence on the streets of this country.’ 

  • Additional reporting: Duncan Gardham

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