Poppy Day suicide bomber was at a mosque ‘all day, every day’ during Ramadan and in weeks leading up to botched bomb plot despite converting to Christianity in 2017 and used fake identity to claim asylum
- Police are yet to find evidence Emad Al Swealmeen was inspired by terror group
- Was baptised and confirmed at Liverpool Cathedral in 2017 after finding Jesus
- But security sources claim he was regular at his local mosque from April 2021
- At same time he rented a new flat and began gathering components for bomb
- Detectives also tracing whether he bought explosives online or on high street
- Friends say Al Swealmeen wrestled with depression and was sectioned in 2014
The Liverpool suicide attacker who officials suspect converted to Christianity to aid his asylum application was in his mosque ‘all day, every day’ at the time he began building his bomb, it emerged today.
Emad Al Swealmeen, who was baptised and confirmed at the city’s Anglican cathedral in 2017, was seen worshipping with Muslims during Ramadan and praying with a friend in the week before Sunday’s attack, it is alleged in media reports.
The revelation will further fuel suspicion that his conversion to Christianity four years ago was just an act to persuade the Home Office to grant him British citizenship and prevent them deporting him because of his new-found faith.
Immigration sources said today that Al Swealmeen used a false identity and multiple appeals to ‘frustrate’ attempts to remove him from the UK before he tried to kill women and babies on Remembrance Sunday.
Police believe Al Swealmeen, 32, had planned an attack for seven months and began buying components for his suicide vest after he began renting a flat in Rutland Avenue in April, which he then turned into a bomb factory.
Investigators are said to have admitted that the device would have caused ‘damage, death and destruction’ on a massive scale, but they ‘go lucky’ when the unstable device’s detonator went off and killed him as he was ‘jostled’ when the taxi pulled up at the Liverpool Women’s Hospital.
Police are yet to find any evidence that Al Swealmeen conspired with or was inspired by a terror group, suggesting he was a ‘lone wolf’ who became radicalised online during lockdown.
But a security source told the Telegraph: ‘Methodology wise this attack is entirely jihadist, but we have an open mind as to what precisely was motivating him. If he built a much more destructive device then the detonation looks accidental. It looks lucky’.
Emad Al Swealmeen, who was baptised and confirmed at the city’s Anglican cathedral in 2017 (left) after being taken in by lay pastor Malcolm Hitchcott (together right), and went on to work as a pizza chef having made repeated asylum applications and appeals, including one under a new identity
His homemade bomb blew up as he approached the hospital after he was ‘jolted’. Experts have suggested it could have been a poorly made Mother of Satan device or even one put together with fireworks
The Church of England was today accused of aiding asylum seekers to ‘game’ the immigration system by helping hundreds to convert from Islam and ‘pray to stay’ in the UK as it emerged people smugglers are using Instagram to urge migrants to follow Jesus to help them gain British citizenship.
Emad Al Swealmeen lost his first bid to stay in Britain in 2014 but appealed again in 2017 after he worshipped at Liverpool Cathedral and his case was still outstanding when he blew himself up in a taxi on Sunday.
He was baptised and confirmed having apparently spoken ‘endlessly and passionately about Jesus’, but members of the city’s largest Anglican church admitted they ‘lost contact’ with him within months of the ceremony. He was one of around 200 asylum seekers to adopt the faith there over a four-year period.
A clergyman at Liverpool Cathedral previously raised concerns about asylum seekers cynically posing as Christians to boost their chances of being awarded refugee status. Rev Mohammad Eghtedarian admitted in 2016 that ‘plenty of people’ were lying about their intentions after it emerged that the Church of England had christened hundreds of asylum seekers under a scheme dubbed ‘pray to stay’.
He said: ‘There are many people abusing the system… I’m not ashamed of saying that. But is it the person’s fault or the system’s fault? And who are they deceiving? The Home Office, me as a pastor, or God?’
MPs are to demand a formal Parliamentary probe into whether fake Christian converts are duping the Church of England to avoid being deported back to strict Muslim countries they came from.
It came as new statistics revealed that between January 2020 and June this year, 29% of all migrants arriving by boat say they are from Iran and 20% say they are from Iraq. 91% of all migrants came from just 10 countries – including Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Eritrea and Yemen. These are also nations named in the top 20 countries where Christians are the most persecuted for following Jesus.
Priti Patel said last night that Al Swealmeen, who changed his name to Enzo Almeni shortly after finding Jesus, exploited the UK’s asylum ‘merry-go-round’ while a Home Office source said changing from Islam to Christianity is now ‘standard practice’ among asylum seekers ‘to game the asylum system’.
Pledging to overhaul the asylum system, Home Secretary Miss Patel declared: ‘The case in Liverpool was a complete reflection of how dysfunctional, how broken, the system has been in the past, and why I want to bring changes forward. It’s a complete merry-go-round and it’s been exploited by a whole professional legal services industry which has based itself on rights of appeal, going to the courts day in day out on legal aid at the expense of the taxpayers.’
The newspaper quoted the insider as claiming that the failed asylum seeker, who somehow remained in the UK for seven years, attended the mosque ‘all day every day’ during Ramadan – and was seen worshipping the week before the suicide attack.
It also emerged that Al Swealmeen adopted a fake identity, Enzo Almeni, and made repeated asylum appeals and applications, including one in January.
The terrorist has been accused of trying to ‘game’ Britain’s creaking immigration by finding Jesus after his first asylum application failed in November 2014 when the Home Office rejected his claims that he was from Syria saying they believed he was from Jordan.
Adding to the picture that he was lying to the authorities, following his death his family abroad said that he was actually from Iraq.
Al Swealmeen launched an appeal within the First Tier Tribunal of the Immigration and Asylum Chamber which was dismissed on April 16, 2015.
Later that year appeals to both that court and to the Upper Tier Tribunal were also refused.
It is understood that Al Swealmeen made a fresh asylum application to the Home Office in 2017 under his new name, but this was rejected two years later.
The 32-year-old then made a new application to the First Tier Tribunal on January 19 this year which was under review at the time he blew himself.
Yesterday police found several ‘suspicious packages’ after raiding a pub and asylum hostel linked to the Poppy Day suicide bomber.
Officers said Emad Al Swealmeen, 32, had planned an attack for seven months but have not found any evidence that he conspired with or was inspired by a terror group.
A Royal Logistics Corp bomb disposal vehicle was seen arriving in Sutcliffe Street, Liverpool along with a fire engine, and the cordon was slightly extended to Boaler Street before ending this evening.
Residents who had been told to leave their homes have now been warned that they may see explosive ordinance disposal (EOD) officers on Thursday in case further ‘suspicious’ items are found.
Assistant Chief Constable Russ Jackson, Head of Counter Terrorism Policing North West, said several suspicious packages were found, and were examined by EOD officers before being recovered by forensic teams.
Searches have also been carried out at a property in Rutland Avenue that had been rented by Al Swealmeen since April, and that is the main focus of the police investigation.
Police earlier said Iraq-born Al Swealmeen had rented a property in Liverpool seven months ago and had started making ‘relevant purchases’ for his homemade bomb ‘at least’ since that time.
Officers are yet to find any evidence that Al Swealmeen conspired with or was inspired by a terror group, suggesting he was a ‘lone wolf’ who became radicalised online during lockdown.
One theory is that the bomber was suffering a mental health crisis having been devastated at his continued failure to gain asylum here because the Home Office refused to believe he was Syrian.
In an update on the investigation ACC Jackson said that the pizza chef who converted from Islam to Christianity began renting his flat in Rutland Avenue, Liverpool at around Easter.
ACC Jackson said: ‘A complex picture is emerging over the purchases of the component parts of the device, we know that Al Swealmeen rented the property from April this year and we believe relevant purchases have been made at least since that time’.
He added: ‘At this time we are not finding any link to others in the Merseyside area of concern but this remains a fast moving investigation and as more becomes known we cannot rule out action against others’.
Confirming the terrorist’s cause of death he said: ‘The post mortem on the deceased has taken place and the cause of death has been described as injuries sustained from the fire and explosion.’
He also said that the 32-year-old asylum seeker had suffered from periods of mental illness that will ‘form part of the investigation and will take some time to fully understand’.
Mr Jackson added: ‘There is much comment in the media about Al Swealmeen and it is clear that he was known to many people. We continue to appeal for people who knew him, especially those who associated with him this year as we try and piece together the events leading up to this incident and the reasons for it’.
The Royal Logistic Corps, Bomb Disposal team arriving at Sutcliffe Street in the Kensington area of Liverpool yesterday after suspicious items were found in his former asylum hostel
Police have also yet to find any evidence that failed asylum seeker and pizza chef Emad Al Swealmeen, 32, conspired with or was inspired by a terror group, suggesting he was a ‘lone wolf’ who became radicalised online during lockdown.
These pictures show the squalid inside of the asylum hostel on Sutcliffe Street where the bomber had been staying
His 1lb bomb went off as his taxi pulled up at the Liverpool Women’s Hospital just before the 11am national silence on Remembrance Sunday.
There have been conflicting reports about what the device was made of.
Some insiders claimed it was packed with ball bearings and made using homemade TATP explosives. TATP is unstable and known as a ‘Mother of Satan’ because it is liable to blow up accidentally. It was used by Islamist terrorist in the Paris suicide attacks of 2015, the Manchester Arena bombing in 2017 and the failed Parsons Green Underground station.
But other experts believe he may have bought his explosives online or on the high street and may have even constructed his home-made improvised explosive device (IED) using seasonal fireworks.
Detectives are now trying to trace Al Swealmeen’s movements to discover whether he bought his explosives online or on the high street. Experts now fear the bomber constructed his home-made improvised explosive device (IED) using seasonal fireworks.
A former counter-terror official told The Telegraph: ‘The white smoke that can be seen billowing out of the cab could indicate the use of gunpowder and there is also a flash within the cab itself which could be powder burning.
‘It is possible to construct homemade devices using fireworks, but it still requires a degree of expertise and planning.’
There are suspicions that he might have followed a recipe for the material used by the 7/7 bombers who targeted London in 2005.
Worryingly, no one who knew him raised the alarm about his behaviour. His local mental health trust said he had previously been receiving help, but was no longer a patient.
A Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust spokesman said: ‘We can confirm Emad Al Swealmeen had previously accessed our services but was not a service user at the time of the incident.’
Friends said Al Swealmeen had wrestled with depression and was sectioned in 2014 after he was rejected for asylum for the first time.
They recalled how the bomber was so ‘car mad’ that he nicknamed himself ‘GT’ and had the initials tattooed on his arm along with a chequered flag.
He changed his name to Enzo Almeni – after the Ferrari boss – and loved go-karting so much that that he bought his own helmet and got friends to sign it.
He was a regular at the TeamSport Go-karting track, on Liverpool’s Brunswick docks, often going with his housemates or on his own to race laps.
Friends said they were astounded that the ‘quiet and bashful’ young man, who was also a big fan of country singer Johnny Cash, was behind the Poppy Day bomb.
This afternoon the damaged taxi was being removed by forensic officer after the explosion at the Liverpool Women’s Hospital that killed terrorist Emad Al Swealmeen, 32
Aerial view of the aftermath of the explosion at the Liverpool Women’s Hospital and the burnt out taxi
One, who knew Al Swealmeen through his job at a pizza takeaway, said: ‘He called himself GT because he loved cars, it was a little nickname he gave himself, he even had it tattooed on his arm.
‘He was quiet, but not in a weird way, he was just really shy. I nearly fell off my chair when I saw his picture. Of all the people that worked in the takeaway he would have been bottom of my list to do something so sick.
‘He was reserved, but not like he was hiding something, more like he was lacking in confidence. He did speak to me about feeling depressed one time, but didn’t really go into it. At the time he lived in a shared house with a few others and all he cared about was go-karting.
‘He showed me his helmet that he had bought, he was really excited about it. He went go-karting a few times on his own, he was so into it, and I remember him getting a tattoo and showing it off.
‘He also loved Johnny Cash and he told me he wanted to get a Johnny Cash tattoo too.’
Malcolm Hitchcott, 77, a lay pastor and retired Army officer who gave Al Swealmeen a room in his home for eight months in 2017, remembered accompanying him on a trip to the track.
Pictures on social media show him in racing overalls at the karting venue, where he took part in ‘Top Gun’ marathon karting races and ’50-lap’ events. ‘He got me to sign his helmet, rather like Lewis Hamilton signs helmets [for fans],’
Mr Hitchcott added: ‘He never spoke about a particular driver but he loved Ferrari, he was a Ferrari man. His email address was Ferrari-related too. He was very interested in motor racing.’
Al Swealmeen is understood to have ordered a taxi from Rutland Avenue to the Crown Street hospital shortly before 11am on Remembrance Sunday
The indoor facility boasts 40mph karts and several of Liverpool’s sporting greats such as Jamie Carragher, Sam Quek and Tony Bellew on its celebrity leaderboard.
But a source said Al Swealmeen had not been to the track for over a year. Last night the businessman who employed Al Swealmeen at his pizza takeaway for several months in around 2016 said he was a ‘nice, polite guy’.
‘I was shocked when I saw who it was,’ the man, who did not want to be named, said.
‘I still can’t believe it. He was a nice, polite guy. He wasn’t a practising Muslim, he told me he lived with a Christian family, and he definitely wasn’t a fanatic.
‘I’ve employed Muslims before, some of them don’t like touching ham if it isn’t Halal, but he didn’t seem worried about that.
‘He worked part-time for me, he had a visa and was legit. I paid him about £50 a day.
‘Never in a million years would I think him capable of something like that.’
The friend agreed Al Swealmeen was not religious.
‘He never really talked about religion,’ he added.
‘I didn’t think he practised any faith, although I do remember him telling me one time he had been to church and was trying to get to know people there.
‘I would love to know what happened to him over the past few years. He must have been manipulated or corrupted. The man I knew and what he did on Sunday – they are like night and day.’
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