Islam Under Scrutiny by Ex-Muslims

How Britain Encouraged Radicalism And Terrorism, Part 2

<<<< Part one here


On February 16, 1996, Al Muhajiroun was formed by Omar Bakri Mohammed as an offshoot from the British branch of Hizb ut-Tahrir, which he had founded in 1986 with a Syrian, Farid Kassim.  Hizb ut-Tahrir is an international Islamist group formed in Jerusalem in 1953 by Muslim jurist Taqiuddin al-Nabhani.  It aims to establish a Caliphate - a pan-national Islamist superstate.  Syrian-born Bakri had gone to Saudi Arabia in 1983, where he set up a group also called Al Muhajiroun. This was a cover for Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is banned in Saudi Arabia.  Bakri was expelled in 1985.  He arrived in Britain, where he became an "asylum seeker".
 Bakri was based in Tottenham in North London.  He lived in a house there, provided by welfare, where he and his wife would raise seven children.  Al Muhajiroun had an office in the Lee Valley Techno Park in Tottenham, which also housed the "British Court of Sharia", an entirely unofficial body.  The Lee Valley office was allegedly used to recruit people to join Hamas, Hizbollah and Egyptian Islamic Jihad.
 In 2004, six months before he officially disbanded Al Muhajiroun, Bakri gave an interview to a Portugese magazine.  He claimed that in his time in Britain, he had been arrested 16 times, but released without charge on all occasions.  He warned then that a terror attack against Britain was "inevitable", adding: "We don’t make a distinction between civilians and non-civilians, innocents and non-innocents.  Only between Muslims and unbelievers.  And the life of an unbeliever has no value.  It has no sanctity."
The following year, on 7 July, 2005, Bakri’s "prediction" came true and 52 people were slaughtered on London Transport.  The leader of the 7/7 suicide attack cell - Mohammed Sidique Khan - was connected with Al Muhajiroun members.  These individuals, sentenced to life imprisonment on April 30 this year in the Operation Crevice trial, also plotted terror attacks against Britain.  Mohammed Sidique Khan and his fellow suicide bomber Shehzad Tanweer had met Omar Khyam (pictured), senior member of the Operation Crevice convicts, on four occasions in early 2004.
 One of these meetings, from February 21, 2004, took place in Omar Khyam’s Suzuki Vitara Jeep.  Sidique Khan asked Omar Khyam: "Are you really a terrorist, eh?"  Khyam answered: "They’re working with us."  Sidique Khan urged: "You’re serious, you are basically."  Omar Khyam replied: "No, I’m not a terrorist but they are working through us."  Sidique Khan said: "Who are? There’s no one higher than you."  Later in the conversation Khyam spoke of travel to terror training camps in Pakistan and warned Sidique Khan: "The only thing, one thing I will advise you, yeah, is total obedience to whoever your emir is... up there you can get your head cut off."
 In 2003, Omar Khyam (who used the code-name "Ausman") and Mohammed Sidique Khan (code-named "Ibrahim") had both attended a terrorist training camp in Malakand in Pakistan, near the Afghanistan border.  Here they had trained in the use of explosives, handling Kalashnikovs, rocket propelled grenades and how to extract the deadly toxin ricin from castor oil beans.
 In 1999, according to Richard Watson on BBC’s Newsnight - (video here) - Omar Bakri Mohammed wanted to expand Al Muhajiroun’s operations.  He sent an envoy to New York, called Sajil Shahid (pictured).  It was in New York that Shahid, a Dutch/Pakistani, met Mohammed Junaid Babar, whose testimony would later help to convict the Operation Crevice members.
 In New York in the mid-1990s, the Queens Islamic Center, based at the Masjid al-Fatima on 37th Avenue, Woodside, had been taken over by radicals from Hizb ut-Tahrir.  The US Hizb ut-Tahrir branch had been set up in Queens in the 1980s by Iyad Hilal.  He recently lived in Orange County, California, before being forced into hiding.
 Aqeel Khan, founder and secretary of the Queens Islamic Center, said of these Hizb radicals: "They had their own programs, which were not the directions of the mosque... There were five times (a day) prayer, but then they had their own meetings here and we - the general public - were not invited."  The radicals were officially thrown out after $400,000 had gone missing from mosque funds, but they continued to use the mosque.  It is believed to be here that Junaid Babar met Sajil Shahid.
From June 2 to 4, 2000, there was a meeting at the Masjid al-Fatima mosque, with lectures given by Sajil Shahid (pictured).  The convention was also addressed by American Al-Muhajiroun member Syed "Fahad" Hashmi, who was arrested at London’s Heathrow airport on June 6 last year on suspicion of providing cash and military equipment for al-Qaeda terrorists.
 In 1999 Shahid’s brother Adil Shahid had gone to Pakistan where he set up an Al Muhajiroun office in Lahore, Pakistan.  He was joined here by his brother Sajil who met "friends" of Osama bin Laden.  These included Khalid Khawaja, who is now in prison.  Khawaja, who was sacked from the ISI (Pakistan’s intelligence agency) in the mid 1980s, boasted of meeting bin Laden hundreds of times, and said: "Mr Sajil Shahid was promoting jihad, so it is not only Mr Sajil Shahid, any true Muslim has to promote jihad.  If he doesn’t, he should not call himself a Muslim; he is a hypocrite."
 Al Muhajiroun used the Lahore base in its drives to recruit British Muslims to perform armed jihad.  On Christmas Day, 2000, a British-born Muslim, Mohammed Bilal, became the first UK suicide bomber.  He blew himself up in Srinagar, Indian Kashmir, killing six soldiers and three civilians.  According to Richard Watson, Bakri claimed that Bilal was one of his recruits.  At that time Bakri Mohammed was stating publicly that people who went to fight in Chechnya, Afghanistan or Kashmir were obeying their "religious obligations".
 Bakri called terror training "National Service" and said: "It is part of a young Muslim’s religious obligations to go for three months’ military training."  With the Terrorism Act 2000 not coming into force until February 19, 2001, Bakri was still acting legally by urging Muslims to receive terror training abroad.
 On 9/11, Junaid Babar’s mother was on the ninth floor of the World Trade Center, but she had escaped the carnage.  Last year Babar told the Old Bailey jury: "I loved my mother but if she was meant to die in the attack then she was meant to die in the attack."  A week after 9/11, Junaid Babar left his home in Queens, NYC, and arrived in Pakistan.  He stayed at the Lahore office of Al Muhajiroun for a month, and then rented an apartment in Muslim Town, Lahore.
 In an interview filmed in November 2001 by Jon Gilbert, Babar said: "My loyalty will, has always been, is and forever will be, with the Muslims... Yes, I’m willing to kill the American soldiers if they enter into Afghanistan with their ground troops.  I’m willing to kill the Americans."  This video, screened on CNN and elsewhere, first drew FBI’s attention to Babar.
 In March 2004, shortly after he finally returned to the US, Babar was arrested on a Queens, New York, street.  He was on his way to a taxi-driving course.  Taken to Room 538 of the Embassy Suites Hotel in Manhattan, over a period of four days FBI agents gave him a choice - face 70 years in jail or agree to turn supergrass.  He chose the latter option.
 On June 2, 2004, Babar pleaded guilty to five counts of conspiracy to provide material support, and providing that support, to terrorists.  He told Federal Judge Victor Marrero that he had supplied night-vision goggles, sleeping bags and other items, including money, to a senior al Qaeda operative who was based in South Waziristan, Pakistan.  Babar said that he himself had made the deliveries in January and February, 2004, and had deputized someone else to do this in the summer of 2003.  Last March, Babar was flown to Britain to give evidence at the Crevice trial.  Only now are certain details of his testimony available.
 In November 2001, Junaid Babar was in regular contact with Hassan Butt, who claimed to have sent two hundred jihadists to fight coalition troops.  In December 2001, Babar bought a property in Eden Heights on Jail Road in the city of Lahore.  In January 2002, Babar’s associate Hassan Butt claimed that Muslims returning to Britain from jihad would launch terror attacks.  For this "faux pas" Bakri officially removed Butt from his position as Al Muhajiroun spokesman, though he remained in Pakistan assisting jihad recruitment.  Downing Street and the Home Office dismissed Butt’s claims, even though they have now been proved true.
 From April 2002 until December 2002, Junaid Babar worked for the Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB).  This state-owned company was managed by Sohail Shahid, the brother of Sajil and Adil Shahid.  Sohail became PSEB’s managing director in March 2002, and within two months had claimed he had brought PSEB $150 million worth of new contracts.  In May 2002 these claims were exposed as exaggerations.  By July 2002, allegations of corruption worth "millions of rupees" on the PSEB board were being raised.
 Sohail Shahid was fired from his position as managing director of PSEB in September 2002.  This was for misuse of power.  The Auditor General’s office and the Ministry of Science & Technology accused him of violation of rules, negligence and violation of propriety.  Through PSEB servers, jihadist websites were operated, and government guest houses were used by visiting jihadists, claims Richard Watson.
 Though Sohail Shahid has denied assisting Al Muhajiroun, it is claimed by Richard Watson that through this company, Junaid Babar was able to forge government passes.  These allowed him and his jihadist associates to gain access to the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) in North-West Frontier Province (NWFP).  This is where Taliban and Al Qaeda members were based.  While he was employed by PSEB, Junaid Babar was posted to Peshawar, capital city of NWFP.  From here, it was a short distance to the FATA border agencies, which included South Waziristan where his al Qaeda contact was based.
 In 2003, Junaid Babar and Sajil Shahid had founded the training camp in Malakand in NWFP Malakand district was where Winston Churchill had been posted in the late 1890s.  In the summer of 2003, members of the Operation Crevice cell had gone to Pakistan.  Four of these individuals met Junaid Babar.  They were Omar Khyam ("Ausman"), Waheed Mahmood ("Abdul Waheed"), Anthony Garcia ("Abdul Rahman") and Salahuddin Amin ("Khalid").
 Babar had met most of these before, while on a fundraising trip to Britain in 2002.  He testified that he first encountered Omar Khyam at a mosque in Crawley, West Sussex.  He had gone with Khyam to sermons given by the radical preachers Abu Hamza and Abdullah el-Faisal, who claimed that it was "permitted" and even desirable to kill non-Muslims.
 Babar stated that in Crawley, Omar Khyam boasted of having direct links to senior Al Qaeda operative called al-Hadi, who appears to be Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi who was recently transferred to Guantanamo.
Both Khyam and Salahuddin Amin were in contact with an Arab man named Abu Munthir who had formerly lived in Luton.  Amin channelled funds from Britain to Pakistan.  They were also in contact with a man named Mohammed Quayyum Khan, or "Q" (pictured), who had also lived in Luton.  Q is said to have ordered the 7/7 bomber SIdique Khan to attend the Malakand terror camp.  Q is thought to have strong al Qaeda links.  He had been followed by MI5 since March 2003, and the Crevice group was first identified as a result of these inquiries.  Q’s home was searched in Luton, but he was never charged.  It has been said at the recent trial that he is the real leader of the Crevice team.
 Salahuddin Amin, aged 32, had left his home in Luton, Bedfordshire, shortly after 9/11 to live near the borderlands of Pakistan, where he ferried funds to jihadists.  Amin claimed in court that the funds were for Afghan refugees.  In 2003, he had greeted Omar Khyam and on a separate occasion Mohammed Sidique Khan when they flew in from Britain.  A video of some of Amin’s police confessions can be found here.
In the summer of 2003 Babar had gone with the four to the training camp in Malakand.  There they were shown explosives techniques, and tried out their own bombs from ammonium nitrate.  Of two tests, one succeeded.  After this they returned to Lahore.  Babar had stolen five computers from his employers, PSEB.  He gave three of these to the British Muslims.  They rented rooms in Soofi House (pictured), 13 Ilyas Street in Lahore.
 Another lodger at Soofi House that summer had been the 7/7 suicide bomber, Mohammed Sidique Khan.  The raucous behavior of the British Crevice group led to neighbors calling police. The Pakistan intelligence agencies found out that the men had gone to Malakand for training, and they informed MI5.
 According to Hassan Butt, Babar had attended a fund-raising event for the Malakand training camp in Hendon, north London, in 2002.  Babar’s testimony confirmed that he attended such an event.  Hassan Butt, who was stabbed and beaten in April this year for denouncing Muslim violence on CNN, said that Mohammed Quayyum Khan or "Q" had been in attendance.  Known as the "Bashful Dwarf" by MI5 agents, Q has gone into hiding.
 When Hassan Butt returned to Britain in December 2002, he was detained by police and questioned, but never charged.
 Sajil Shahid, who had run Al Muhajiroun’s Pakistan operations, was imprisoned with his brothers Adil and Sohail by the Pakistani authorities for three months in October 2004.  Upon his release in January 2005, Sajil Shahid was expelled from Pakistan and came to Britain.  In July 2006, while London mourned the victims of 7/7 on the first anniversary of the attacks, the Islamist Mohammed Sawalha held an exhibition celebrating Islam.  This Islam Expo, held at Alexandra Palace in north London.  Here Sajil Shahid had a stall, promoting Islamic computer games.
 In Britain, the authorities seemed to be in denial of the jihadist "conveyor belt" in Pakistan, despite open statements from Al Muhajiroun members such as Abdul Raheem Saleem, aka "Abu Yahya".  In September 2001 he said that he had attended training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and had met Taliban members.  No action was taken.  Abu Yahya took part in the infamous February 3, 2006 demonstration in Sloane Square, where placards called for the beheading of "those who insult Islam", and was found guilty of "inciting racial hatred" on February 1, 2007.
 Omar Bakri Mohammed had been portrayed in the media as a clown, partly as a result of a documentary by Jon Ronson for Channel 4 TV, aired on April 8, 1997, entitled "Tottenham Ayatollah".  Bakri also contributed to this buffoonish image.  While handing out leaflets condemning homosexuality in 1996 he told passers-by in Holborn: "Be careful from homosexuality!  It is not good for your tummy!"  When this tactic did not attract people to take his pamphlets, he turned them upside down and cried out: "Help the orphans! Help the orphans!" - a strategy which drew more interest.
 From 2000 onwards, the message of Al Muhajiroun’s malevolent intent toward Britain and its troops was self-evident.  Members of the group were frequently engaged in incidents of public disorder, and their anti-Semitism was obvious.  In early 2000 Al Muhajiroun displayed posters in British universities saying "The last hour will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and the Muslims kill the Jews."  The phrase comes from a Hadith by Sahih Muslim.  In May 2002 London Al Muhajiroun member Iftikhar Ali was convicted of having distributed "threatening, abusive or insulting" material in October, 2000, with the intention of stirring up racial hatred. His leaflets had stated: "The Jewish people must die."
 The British authorities seemed more interested in the activities of Abu Hamza, the radical preacher at Finsbury Park Mosque.  Hamza was a friend of Omar Bakri Mohammed.  His sermons had been heard by Zacarias Moussaoui, the "20th man" in the 9/11 conspiracy, and also shoe-bomber Richard Reid.  British intelligence agents had an informer placed at the mosque, who would later claim that they failed to take his reports about Hamza seriously.
 Al Muhajiroun members acted as if there were an "agreement" or truce between themselves and the UK.  As long as the authorities did not interfere with them, there would be no terror attacks on British soil.  They called this agreement a "Covenant of Security". As long as Al Muhajiroun’s terrorist operations happened offshore, MI5 and the Blair government seemed not to care about the group’s activities.  In 2005, immediately after 7/7, former Al Muhajiroun members announced that the "Covenant of Security" was over.


To be continued in part three >>>

Adrian Morgan is a British based writer and artist who regularly contributes in Family Security Matters. His essays also appear in Western Resistance, Spero News and He has previously contributed to various publications, including the Guardian and New Scientist and is a former Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Society.

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