THE terrorists responsible for the London Bridge attack in June had planned to attack Ireland but decided against it, it has emerged.
Rachid Redouane (31) and Khuram Butt (27) – two of the three terrorists shot dead after killing eight people – had scouted Dublin as a potential target, according to reports in the Irish Independent.
An Irish ID card was found on Redouane’s body following the deadly attack on the night of June 3 this year.
He had married an Irish woman named Charisse O’Leary at a registry office in Dublin in 2012, where they lived together at addresses in Cabra and Rathmines for a number of years.
Reports claim that Redouane, along with Butt, carried out ‘military observations’ of a number of locations in the Irish capital, including a "nationally known family-friendly tourist attraction."
But the two men decided against carrying out an attack in Ireland after being convinced that the country was more useful as a “logistics base” to raise funds through the internet.
Redouane and Butt were inspired by a Pakistani-born British citizen known as ‘Raza’ – who operated an internet fraud scheme targeting Irish companies from an address in Santry, north Dublin.
The fraud operation raised funds to support jihadists in acquiring transport and false documents, including passports, which came through a network of Irish-based ISIS sympathizers.
The Gardaí's Counter Terrorism International (CTI) unit found that Redouane and Butt stayed at the Santry address with 'Raza' on several occasions as recently as two years ago.
Raza remains on the MI5 and Scotland Yard’s most-wanted list of suspects believed to have played a role in the planning of the London Bridge attack.
The connection between Raza’s internet fraud operation and the London Bridge attack only came to light after a Sunday Independent investigation spoke with an unnamed Irish woman radicalised after converting to Islam while living in Britain.
The woman, known only as ‘Sister Aaliya’, 26, broke her silence following the attack in June.
She spoke at a press conference organized by the Irish Muslim Peace and Integration Council at the Al-Mustafa Islamic Centre in Blanchardstown in Dublin.
She said explained that she met with Khuram Butt about 20 times, both in Ireland and Britain. At the time, she claimed she had never met Redouane, who was living in in Grosvenor Square, Rathmines.
Sister Aaliya told the press conference that there were up to 150 Muslim extremists living in Ireland who were saw the country as being "backward and behind the times" in regards to tackling radical Islamism.
After the press conference, the MI5 took “intense interest” in Sister Aaliya and she was interviewed at length by the Gardaí's CTI unit.
She admitted to being the director of two fraudulent companies run by ‘Raza’ in both Ireland and Britain, and explained that she was aware that Redouane and Butt had been plotting attacks in Dublin.
It is understood that the two soon-to-be terrorists were convinced to change their plans for an Irish attack by Raza, who believed that Ireland would suit ISIS better as a logistics and fund-raising base.
Sister Aaliya gave Gardaí an 80-page statement with details on ISIS extremists in Ireland and the UK – information found to be highly credible by counter-terrorism experts.
She had been in a relationship with a friend of the Jihadists for several months and said she feared for her safety after being threatened by the men several times.
She left London at the end of 2016 as her partner was "very controlling" and beat her severely.
She said: "I've been threatened on numerous occasions... I came back to Ireland to get away from all that.”
Local imam Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri said Sister Aaliya, who converted to Islam at the age of 18, had been successfully deradicalised at a mosque in Barking, east London – near to where the London Bridge attackers associated.
It is believed she traveled to live in Ireland under a witness protection programme. Her identity will remain anonymous.