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Bulletproof underwear was snake protection, Abu Sayyaf terror suspect tells UK court

A British man accused of plotting to join Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines claims he bought bullet-proof underpants to protect himself from snake bites.

Ryan Counsell, aged 28, from Nottingham, also said he searched online for “military surplus store Zamboanga” purely because he struggled to find trousers small enough to fit him. Because the Philippines is a nation of “smaller people”, he told a court, he thought they might have his size.

The supermarket worker was speaking in his defence after being accused of trying to fly out the Philippines to join the ISIS-affiliated terror group.

(To read the case for the prosecution, click here.)

Earlier in his defence case, he had claimed he was visiting the Abu Sayyaf stronghold of Basilan Island merely because a TV show had inspired him to research living “off grid”.

(See  our previous report on Counsell’s defence here.)

The jury at Woolwich Crown Court, London, also heard that the Muslim convert had made multiple internet searches for “prostitutes and escort agencies” and “casual encounters” in June and July last year.

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He also searched “I want to be a gypsy” and “caravan park Nottingham”, which he said reflected his interest in alternative ways of living.

The court was taken through Counsell’s browsing history from May 2014 to July 2016, when he was arrested at London’s Stansted Airport while waiting for a flight with his wife and three-year-old daughter. The woman and girl were due to visit relatives in the Netherlands, while Counsell had booked onward tickets to Zamboanga, via Manila.

One Google search on July 4 read: “I hate marriage”. Counsell, who met his Somali-born wife through an Islamic matchmaking service, said: “I was having problems with my marriage. It was not so much the concept of marriage, it was that I hated the situation I was in regarding my marriage.”

When he was asked about his searches for “Nottingham personals”, “Nottingham casual encounters” and “lost sexual confidence” Counsell answered: “All of these are my attempts to find an additional relationship, something that would make me happy outside of marriage.

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“My wife didn’t show any affection or passion towards me. She just seemed completely uninterested with me in every single way and I felt really confused by that and it affected me badly.

“I would discuss my relationship with my wife very seriously, in an open manner, a very calm manner and she wouldn’t really respond.”

He was also asked about a search last May for “military surplus store Zamboanga”.

He replied: “It is harder to find in the UK certain military equipment for smaller people. I was thinking in the Philippines, because they are smaller people, surely they are going to have smaller uniforms.” He had previously told the court that his purchase of items such as military-style boots, kneepads and rifle magazine pouches was motivated purely by a penchant for military-style fashion.

He said he thought he “could bring some back” on his return to the UK and that the shop could also be a place for him to buy general supplies while in the Philippines.

Counsel was also asked about some specialist Kevlar boxer shorts he had bought, that claim to prevent damage from bullets and shrapnel.

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Counsell replied that they were to “offer me protection from terrain features such as thorns, spikes, brush. It would also offer protection from snake bites.”

The court was also taken through a WhatsApp group conversation between Counsell and four other people, known as Besnik Asani, Ibrahim Vidimlic, Misbah and Dennis.

In March last year, on the day of the terrorist attack in Brussels, Belgium, that killed 32 people, Counsell joked to the group: “I heard in Holland’s cafes they’re always on high alert. If someone asks me about terrorism I’m going to tell them I like a bang in the morning too.”

Asked to explain what that meant, Counsell said: “It’s a sexual innuendo related to terrorism. We tended to joke about terrorism a lot.”

Counsell, of Russell Road, Forest Fields, denies three counts of possessing a document containing terrorist information and one count of engaging in conduct in preparation of terrorist acts.

The trial continues.

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