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Context of 'December 10, 2000: Radical London Imam Admits He Helps Finance and Train Islamist Recruits'

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Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, a leading Islamist radical based in London, calls for the assassination of British Prime Minister John Major. Bakri says that Major is “a legitimate target; if anyone gets the opportunity to assassinate him, I don’t think they should save it. It is our Islamic duty and we will celebrate his death.” Bakri makes this call at some point after Major’s appointment to succeed Margaret Thatcher, but before the end of the Gulf War, the event that inspires Bakri’s statement. However, Bakri will later say that this did not apply in Britain and that such assassination could only be properly carried out in a Muslim country. He is interviewed by the police but not charged, one of almost a dozen such incidents when a decision not to prosecute Bakri is taken. He will later call for the assassination of Major’s successor, Tony Blair (see December 10, 2000). [Terrorism Monitor, 7/7/2005; O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 113] Bakri works as an informer for British intelligence at some point (see Spring 2005-Early 2007), although it is unclear whether he is doing so at this time.

Entity Tags: Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Ronson’s footage of Omar Bakri Mohammed, left, leading followers in prayer inside the Scout hut.Ronson’s footage of Omar Bakri Mohammed, left, leading followers in prayer inside the Scout hut. [Source: Jon Ronson]Reporter Jon Ronson is making a documentary about Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, a radical London imam and leader of the militant group Al-Muhajiroun, and is allowed to attend a training camp meeting led by Bakri. Ronson is taken to a well-stocked gym in a Scout hut in a forestry center near Crawley, Britain. There are punchbags, treadmills, and a TV that is showing videos promoting militant action. Ronson watches as Bakri gives a lecture in front of about 30 young men. Bakri tells his audience: “There is a time when a military struggle must take place in [Britain]. Jihad. It’s called conquering. One day, without question, [Britain] is going to be governed by Islam.… You must be ready to defend yourselves militarily.” Ronson, who has a humorous edge to his reporting, calls the place Bakri’s “secret jihad training camp,” not believing that “Bakri’s people were violent or motivated enough to actually initiate a jihad or commit acts of terrorism.” But he will later find he is incorrect. For instance, Omar Khyam will get interested in radical Islam in late 1998, and soon join Al-Muhajiroun. He and other members of the group will be sentenced to life in prison after attempting to build a large fertilizer bomb in 2004 (see Early 2003-April 6, 2004). [Guardian, 4/30/2007] In late 2000, Bakri will say he has recruited 600 to 700 volunteers for jihad in the last few years (see December 10, 2000).

Entity Tags: Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, Jon Ronson, Al-Muhajiroun, Omar Khyam

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Radical London imam Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed makes some startling comments in an interview with the Sunday Mercury. He says: “Freedom and democracy bring nothing but chaos. I am here to bring the message to Britain and to one day fly the black flag of Islam over Downing Street.” He admits that he supports jihad (holy war) “verbally, financially, and even militarily.” He elaborates: “We have had a lot of volunteers from England wanting to attend camps for military training. We send them to South Africa, Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Kashmir.” Bakri also mentions that he believes British Prime Minister Tony Blair is a “legitimate target for assassination if he ever sets foot on Muslim lands.” An article based on the interview is published on December 10, 2000, and the Sunday Mercury also gives a transcript of the interview to British intelligence. Two weeks later, a British citizen kills ten in India in a suicide bombing, and Bakri praises him as a martyr who will go to paradise (see December 25, 2000). But the newspaper will not hear back from the authorities until a month after the 9/11 attacks. [Sunday Mercury (Birmingham UK), 8/24/2005] Later in the month, Bakri also says that he has signed up 600-700 volunteers over an unspecified period of time, and will continue to do so. He says, “It is every Muslim boy’s duty to do military training. If my children wanted to go and fight for jihad, I would encourage them.” British authorities say they are aware that the recruiting is taking place on their soil, but there is little they can do to stop Britons from fighting overseas. [United Press International, 12/28/2000] Bakri appears to have been running training camps in Britain since at least the start of 1997 (see January 1997).

Entity Tags: Tony Blair, Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

A British suicide bomber drives a stolen car packed with explosives into an Indian army base in the town of Srinagar, located in the Indian-controlled portion of the disputed region of Kashmir. Ten people are killed, including three Indian soldiers. The bomber, Asif Sadiq (a.k.a. Mohammed Bilal), is a 24-year-old student from Birmingham. He is the first known Islamist suicide bomber from Britain. Radical London imam Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, leader of the extremist group Al-Muhajiroun, says, “I am not surprised by his actions. He becomes a martyr and that is the wish of every Muslim in order to go to paradise.” It will later be revealed that Sadiq was a member of Al-Muhajiroun. Sadiq is also said to have been a member of the Pakistani militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM). Days after the bombing, Maulana Masood Azhar, head of JEM, praises Sadiq and calls him a martyr. JEM’s newspaper says that in 1994 Sadiq joined Harkat-ul Ansar, a Pakistani militant group led by Azhar at the time which later changed its name to Harkat ul-Mujahedeen. [Independent, 12/29/2000; Sunday Times (London), 7/24/2005; Sunday Mercury (Birmingham UK), 8/20/2006]

Entity Tags: Harkat ul-Mujahedeen, Asif Sadiq, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Maulana Masood Azhar, Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Six alleged members of the fertilizer bomb plot: Salahuddin Amin, Anthony Garcia, Waheed Mahmood,  Momin Khawaja, Jawad Akbar, and Omar Khyam.Six alleged members of the fertilizer bomb plot: Salahuddin Amin, Anthony Garcia, Waheed Mahmood, Momin Khawaja, Jawad Akbar, and Omar Khyam. [Source: Metropolitan Police/ CP Jonathan Hayward]In early 2003, the British intelligence agency MI5 is tracking a suspected al-Qaeda leader living in Britain known as Mohammed Quayyum Khan (a.k.a. “Q”) (see March 2003 and After), and they see him repeatedly meeting with a Pakistani-Briton named Omar Khyam. Quayyum is believed to be an aide to al-Qaeda leader Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi. [BBC, 5/1/2007] By around March or April 2003, investigators begin monitoring Khyam, and soon discover he is a ringleader in a fertilizer bomb plot on unknown targets in Britain. [BBC, 4/30/2007]
Surveillance Intensifies - By the beginning of February 2004, surveillance intensifies. Thousands of hours of audio are recorded on dozens of suspects. The investigation soon focuses on a smaller group of Khyam’s close associates who are originally from Pakistan and had attended training camps in mountainous regions of Pakistan in recent years. Most of these men have links to Al-Muhajiroun, a banned Islamist group formed by radical London imam Omar Bakri Mohammed. The plotters are monitored discussing various targets, including nightclubs, pubs, and a network of underground high-pressure gas pipelines. In February 2004, MI5 intercepts a phone conversation between Khyam talking to his associate Salahuddin Amin, in Pakistan, about the quantities of different ingredients needed to construct a fertilizer bomb. An al-Qaeda operative in Pakistan had encouraged Amin to bomb targets in Britain.
Fertilizer Found and Replaced - Later in February, employees at a self storage depot in London call police after discovering a large amount of ammonium nitrate fertilizer being stored and suspecting it might be used for a bomb. Investigators discover the fertilizer belongs to Khyam and his group, and has been stored there since November 2003. The fertilizer is covertly replaced with an inert substance so a bomb cannot be successfully made from it.
Arrests Made - Investigators discover that Khyam is planning to fly to Pakistan on April 6, and the decision is made to arrest the suspects before he leaves the country. On March 29, a bomb plotter named Momin Khawaja is arrested where he is living in Canada. Weapons and a half-built detonator are found in his house. The next day, Khyam and seventeen others are arrested in England (see March 29, 2004 and After). Aluminum powder, a key bomb ingredient, is found in a shed owned by Khyam. Amin, still living in Pakistan, turns himself in to authorities there a few days later. Another key member of the group, Mohammed Junaid Babar, is not arrested and flies to the US on April 6. But he is arrested there four days later and quickly agrees to reveal all he knows and testify against the others (see April 10, 2004).
Five Convicted in Trial - The suspects will be put on trial in 2006 and Babar will be the star prosecution witness. Five people, including Khyam, will be sentenced to life in prison in 2007. Trials against Khawaja in Canada and Amin in Pakistan have yet to be decided. Curiously, Quayyum, who has been alleged to the mastermind of the plot and the key al-Qaeda link, is never arrested or even questioned, and continues to live openly in Britain (see March 2003 and After). [Guardian, 5/1/2007]

Entity Tags: Salahuddin Amin, Mohammed Quayyum Khan, Mohammed Junaid Babar, Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, Al-Muhajiroun, Al-Qaeda, Omar Khyam, UK Security Service (MI5)

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Bombing damage at Mike’s Place.Bombing damage at Mike’s Place. [Source: Associated Press]On April 30, two British citizens, Asif Hanif and Omar Sharif, attempt to bomb Mike’s Place, a cafe in Tel Aviv, Israel, located very close to the US embassy. Hanif’s bomb goes off, but a security guard prevented him from entering the cafe, so just three people are killed and 65 are injured. Only Sharif’s detonator goes off, so he flees the scene, being chased by several people. He manages to run away, but his dead body is found in the ocean nearby two weeks later. A British inquest will later suggest he drowned, although why he did remains unknown. The two men are Britain’s second known Islamist suicide bombers (see December 25, 2000). They had lived in Britain most of their lives and only arrived in Israel a couple of weeks earlier, after a short stay in Syria. Hamas takes credit for the bombing and later shows a video of their last testaments in which Hanif states: “It is an honor to kill all these people. It is an honor.” [Daily Telegraph, 9/6/2006] The two are believed to have been members of the radical British militant group Al-Muhajiroun. The group’s leader, Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, says Sharif had recently attended a course at his school, studying Islamic law. A reporter claims to have interviewed Hanif by chance at Al-Muhajiroun’s London office a month before the bombing. They also attended the Finsbury Park mosque, where radical imam Abu Hamza al-Masri preaches. [Observer, 5/4/2003; ISN Security Watch, 7/21/2005; BBC, 7/9/2006] The pair apparently were featured in a recruitment video for Abu Hamza in March 2000. In 2002, a pair of activists working against Abu Hamza, Neil Doyle and Glen Jenvey, tricked Abu Hamza into sending them some recruitment videos, and one showed two masked men holding assault rifles claiming to be fighting in Bosnia. Only in 2004, after Hamas released the video of Sharif and Hanif’s last testaments, did it become clear they were the masked men in the 2000 video as well. [Sunday Mercury (Birmingham UK), 9/19/2004] Mohammad Sidique Khan, the lead suicide bomber in the 7/7 London bombings (see July 7, 2005), traveled to Israel seven weeks before the bombing, and it is suspected he assisted the bombing in some way, because he had known the two men since at least 2001 (see Summer 2001 and February 19-20, 2003).

Entity Tags: Omar Sharif, Hamas, Al-Muhajiroun, Asif Hanif, Glen Jenvey, Abu Hamza al-Masri, Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, Neil Doyle

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

“A few months” before the 7/7 London bombings (see July 7, 2005), journalist Ron Suskind interviews radical London imam Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed. Suskind had recently heard from a British intelligence official that Bakri “had helped [British domestic intelligence agency] MI5 on several of its investigations,” in Suskind’s words, and he asks Bakri about this. According to Suskind, Bakri looks flustered and says, “I’m upset you know this.” Asked why he helped the British, he replies: “Because I like it here. My family’s here. I like the health benefits.” In early 2007, Suskind calls Bakri on the phone. After the 7/7 bombings, Bakri moved from London to Lebanon (see August 6, 2005), but by the time Suskind reaches him, Bakri has moved again to Tripoli, Libya. Bakri admits that he misses Britain and his role there. He says that the British government misses him too, “whether they admit it or not.” He adds: “We were able to control the Muslim youth.… The radical preacher that allows a venting of a point of view is preventing violence. Now, many of us are gone or in jail, and we’ve been replaced by radical jihadis, who take the youth underground. You don’t see them until the day they vent with the bombs.” Suskind will later comment: “Bakri enjoyed his notoriety and was willing to pay for it with information he passed to the police.… It’s a fabric of subtle interlocking needs: the [British authorities] need be in a backchannel conversation with someone working the steam valve of Muslim anger; Bakri needs health insurance.” Bakri’s role as an informant will not be made public until Suskind mentions it in a book published in August 2008. Suskind will not make clear when Bakri’s collaboration with MI5 began or ended, or even if he was still collaborating when they spoke in early 2005. [Suskind, 2008, pp. 200-202] In 2002, Roland Jacquard, a French counterterrorism expert and government adviser, said that “every al-Qaeda operative recently arrested or identified in Europe had come into contact with Bakri at some time or other.” [Time, 5/27/2002]

Entity Tags: Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, Ron Suskind, UK Security Service (MI5)

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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