In Depth

How Prince George became an Islamic State target

IS supporter changes plea to admit encouraging jihadists to attack heir to the throne at school

An Islamic State supporter has admitted to encouraging terrorism by calling for an attack on Prince George at his school, in one of more than 360,000 propaganda and hate messages he posted on social media.

In a dramatic mid-trial reversal, Husnain Rashid pleaded guilty to three counts of engaging in conduct to prepare of terrorist acts, and one count of encouraging terrorism.

As well as admitting to using the encrypted Telegram messaging app to call on IS supporters to target the four-year-old heir to the throne, Rashid also encouraged his followers to poison ice cream, inject cyanide into vegetables at supermarkets, and attack football stadiums, British Army bases and Jewish centres. 

The unemployed web designer from Lancashire, who was arrested last November, had offered advice to an IS operative in Syria called “Repunzel” on how to make explosives and shoot down aircraft and was even planning his own online magazine offering tips for “lone-wolf attacks”.

The Crown Prosecution Service also said he had made plans to travel to Turkey and Syria, intending to fight in territories controlled by IS, and had sought advice on how to reach Syria and obtain the authorisation he would need to join a fighting group.

But it is his specific targeting of Prince George that has drawn the most press attention.

Rashid posted the full address of his school in south-west London with a photo of the young prince next to a superimposed silhouette of a jihadi fighter and a message which said: “Even the royal family will not be left alone. School starts early.”

Rashid “went to great lengths to hide his online extremism from the authorities”, says The Guardian.

The encryption on his laptop’s two-terabyte hard drive was so strong that intelligence agencies have been unable to crack it. He hacked into his neighbour’s internet to publish material online and conducted most of his activity on a Samsung smartphone that had no sim card, was on airplane mode and had tape over the camera, which police say was counter-surveillance tradecraft.

The BBC reports that when police finally swooped on his house Rashid hurled a phone containing a “treasure trove” of evidence over a wall into an alleyway.

Following Rashid's revised plea, Judge Andrew Lees said the trial had heard the “most disturbing allegations” and told Rashid a very lengthy prison sentence was “inevitable” and a life sentence would be considered.

He is due to be sentenced at the end of the month.

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