Ukrainian gets 40 years for British mosque bombs, murder

LONDON (AFP) - A Ukrainian student was jailed for a minimum of 40 years by a British court for murdering a Muslim grandfather and planting bombs near three mosques as part of what police called a racist terror campaign.

Mr Pavlo Lapshyn, 25, had pleaded guilty on Monday to stabbing 82-year-old Mohammed Saleem to death as he walked home from a mosque in the central English city of Birmingham in April.

Lapshyn, a postgraduate student from the eastern Ukrainian city of Dnipropetrovsk, also admitted plotting to cause explosions at mosques in three towns in central England.

No one was injured in the blasts in the towns of Walsall, Wolverhampton and Tipton in June and July.

Judge Nigel Sweeney, sitting at the Old Bailey in London, the central criminal court for England and Wales, sentenced Lapshyn to life in jail with a minimum term of 40 years on Friday.

"You clearly hold extremist right-wing, white supremacist views and you were motivated to commit the offences by religious and racial hatred in the hope that you would ignite racial conflict and cause Muslims to leave the area where you were living," the judge said.

"Such views, hatred and motivations have no place whatsoever in our multi-faith and multi-cultural society." Police said they believed Lapshyn intended to set off further explosions as they found more bomb-making equipment in his room in Birmingham, where he was carrying out a work placement at a software company.

After his arrest in July, Lapshyn told police he murdered father-of-seven Saleem because he hated "non-whites".

The third bomb he planted, in Tipton, was stuffed with shrapnel. The only reason it did not cause mass injuries was that prayers had been delayed by an hour that Friday.

Mr Saleem's daughter Ms Shazia Khan, who watched from the courtroom as Lapshyn was sentenced, described her father's killer as a "gutless coward".

"The shock and sadness of the reality is impossible to accept," she said in a statement read by the judge to the court.

Lapshyn had only arrived in Britain a few days before the murder.

The mosque bombings took place at a time of high tension in Britain, following the brutal hacking to death of a soldier on a London street in May by attackers who said they were avenging the killing of Muslims by British troops in Afghanistan.

Several mosques were attacked by arsonists and vandals in the wake of the murder of soldier Lee Rigby.

Two Muslim converts are due to stand trial for his murder next month.