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Militant Islam Monitor > Articles > UK Police raid 'school for martyrs' used by Abu Hamza Al Masri - 18 premises being searched in massive terror sweep

UK Police raid 'school for martyrs' used by Abu Hamza Al Masri - 18 premises being searched in massive terror sweep

September 4, 2006

http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/crime/article1359806.ece

Police aim to disrupt terrorist recruitment and training

By Cahal Milmo and Jason Bennetto

Published: 04 September 2006

Police investigating an alleged network of terrorist recruiters promoting the aims of al-Qa'ida revealed yesterday that they were searching 18 properties in London and Sussex after raids this weekend. Among the houses being combed by anti-terrorist officers was the south London home of Abu Abdullah, an associate of Abu Hamza, the Muslim cleric who was jailed in February for seven years for soliciting murder during his sermons at the Finsbury Park mosque. The joint MI5 and Scotland Yard investigation into a suspected "home-grown" jihadi indoctrination network is understood to be focusing in part on former associates and acolytes of Hamza, described during his trial as a "recruiting sergeant for terrorism and murder". The number of properties being searched, including an Islamic school set in 54 acres of land in East Sussex, exceeds that involved in Operation Overt last month, when an alleged plot to blow up transatlantic aircraft was foiled in one of the largest anti-terrorist operations of the last 30 years. But as Scotland Yard warned that the search of the Jameah Islamiyah secondary school near Crowborough could last weeks, counterterrorism sources stressed that this weekend's raids were not linked to a specific plot. The operation to arrest 14 men, which followed several months of surveillance, was instead part of a wider strategy adopted by the security services and police since the 7 July 2005 attacks to prevent and disrupt the radicalisation of young British-based recruits by extreme Islamists. While efforts after the 11 September attacks on America focused on the threat to the UK from outside the country, anti-terrorist police now believe the number of British Muslims suspected of supporting terrorism, either directly or indirectly, runs into "thousands of people". Commander Peter Clarke, the head of the Yard's anti-terrorist branch, told a BBC documentary, Al-Qaeda: Time to Talk?, screened last night: "What we've learnt, and what we've seen all too graphically and all too murderously, is that we have a threat which is being generated here within the United Kingdom." Questions remain about how effective new terror legislation has been. More than 1,000 people have been arrested since 9/11 but only 12 per cent of detainees have been charged. Police say they have nonetheless thwarted a number of alleged plots, including three since the 7/7 attacks. The authorities are understood to have singled out the "grooming" process of potential terrorists, who could be deployed either abroad or in the UK, as a means of choking off the threat of attacks similar to the 7/7 bombings before any firm plot has been hatched A counter-terrorism source with knowledge of this weekend's raids said: "We are not talking about an attack plan or even plotting to carry out a specific attack. It's upstream activity that is being investigated. Training and encouraging people to buy into the ideology and recruitment is what we are looking at." The arrival of up to 60 armed police at a halal Chinese restaurant in Borough, south London, on Friday night signalled the start of the latest large-scale anti-terrorist operation. Diners at the Bridge to China Town restaurant had their meals interrupted while officers approached a group of 15 men of mixed ethnic origin, some wearing traditional Muslim dress and others wearing casual clothes. A total of 14 men, aged between 17 and 48, were arrested under anti-terrorism laws at the restaurant, in adjoining streets and other places in London. The suspects, who are being questioned at the high-security Paddington Green police station, are a mixture of British and foreign citizens from a variety of backgrounds thought to include North African and the Middle Eastern. The Yard said yesterday that it was also searching 17 properties at undisclosed locations in the south, east and north of the capital. The police investigation will continue to focus on the 1,000-a-year Jameah Islamiyah school in the village of Mark Cross, which remained the subject of a three-mile exclusion zone. Police said the management of the school, contained in a former Catholic seminary bought by the charity for 800,000 in 2003, were not under suspicion. Instead, police are understood to be looking at the use of the school and its extensive grounds, including a large area of woodland, by visiting groups for suspected indoctrination and physical training. Hamza had visited the school with a group in the past, the school confirmed. Police investigating an alleged network of terrorist recruiters promoting the aims of al-Qa'ida revealed yesterday that they were searching 18 properties in London and Sussex after raids this weekend. Among the houses being combed by anti-terrorist officers was the south London home of Abu Abdullah, an associate of Abu Hamza, the Muslim cleric who was jailed in February for seven years for soliciting murder during his sermons at the Finsbury Park mosque. The joint MI5 and Scotland Yard investigation into a suspected "home-grown" jihadi indoctrination network is understood to be focusing in part on former associates and acolytes of Hamza, described during his trial as a "recruiting sergeant for terrorism and murder". The number of properties being searched, including an Islamic school set in 54 acres of land in East Sussex, exceeds that involved in Operation Overt last month, when an alleged plot to blow up transatlantic aircraft was foiled in one of the largest anti-terrorist operations of the last 30 years. But as Scotland Yard warned that the search of the Jameah Islamiyah secondary school near Crowborough could last weeks, counterterrorism sources stressed that this weekend's raids were not linked to a specific plot. The operation to arrest 14 men, which followed several months of surveillance, was instead part of a wider strategy adopted by the security services and police since the 7 July 2005 attacks to prevent and disrupt the radicalisation of young British-based recruits by extreme Islamists. While efforts after the 11 September attacks on America focused on the threat to the UK from outside the country, anti-terrorist police now believe the number of British Muslims suspected of supporting terrorism, either directly or indirectly, runs into "thousands of people". Commander Peter Clarke, the head of the Yard's anti-terrorist branch, told a BBC documentary, Al-Qaeda: Time to Talk?, screened last night: "What we've learnt, and what we've seen all too graphically and all too murderously, is that we have a threat which is being generated here within the United Kingdom." Questions remain about how effective new terror legislation has been. More than 1,000 people have been arrested since 9/11 but only 12 per cent of detainees have been charged. Police say they have nonetheless thwarted a number of alleged plots, including three since the 7/7 attacks. The authorities are understood to have singled out the "grooming" process of potential terrorists, who could be deployed either abroad or in the UK, as a means of choking off the threat of attacks similar to the 7/7 bombings before any firm plot has been hatched A counter-terrorism source with knowledge of this weekend's raids said: "We are not talking about an attack plan or even plotting to carry out a specific attack. It's upstream activity that is being investigated. Training and encouraging people to buy into the ideology and recruitment is what we are looking at." The arrival of up to 60 armed police at a halal Chinese restaurant in Borough, south London, on Friday night signalled the start of the latest large-scale anti-terrorist operation. Diners at the Bridge to China Town restaurant had their meals interrupted while officers approached a group of 15 men of mixed ethnic origin, some wearing traditional Muslim dress and others wearing casual clothes. A total of 14 men, aged between 17 and 48, were arrested under anti-terrorism laws at the restaurant, in adjoining streets and other places in London. The suspects, who are being questioned at the high-security Paddington Green police station, are a mixture of British and foreign citizens from a variety of backgrounds thought to include North African and the Middle Eastern. The Yard said yesterday that it was also searching 17 properties at undisclosed locations in the south, east and north of the capital. The police investigation will continue to focus on the 1,000-a-year Jameah Islamiyah school in the village of Mark Cross, which remained the subject of a three-mile exclusion zone. Police said the management of the school, contained in a former Catholic seminary bought by the charity for 800,000 in 2003, were not under suspicion. Instead, police are understood to be looking at the use of the school and its extensive grounds, including a large area of woodland, by visiting groups for suspected indoctrination and physical training. Hamza had visited the school with a group in the past, the school confirmed. http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/crime/article1325480.ece

Britain's first 'school for martyrs' raided by police

Secluded former convent in Home Counties once visited by Abu Hamza is sealed off by anti-terrorist officers amid claims it was used to train militants

By Sophie Goodchild and Emily Gosden

Published: 03 September 2006

Anti-terror police yesterday raided what is being reported as allegedly Britain's first home-grown jihad training school after a lengthy surveillance operation by the security services. Scotland Yard has confirmed that the operation, at the Jameah Islameah School near Crowborough in East Sussex, is linked to the arrest of 14 men in London on Friday night, including 12 at a Chinese Halal restaurant. Police have set up a three-mile exclusion zone around the property as they continue to question the men, who are believed to have been visitors to the school. Those under investigation are believed to include Abu Abdullah, who was described last night as Abu Hamza's No 2. The former spokesman for the cleric has repeatedly caused controversy. He recently said that President George W Bush is a "scalp that needs to be taken" and that he would "love" to kill British soldiers in Afghanistan. The News of the World quoted a Home Office source as saying the school was being used to host training weekends for militant Muslim youths. "The training was extreme and macho. It involved endurance in bad weather and bonding. In that sense it was like combat training. They were being groomed for terror." Police said that the people in the school had been "very co-operative" and that no arrests had been made following the search, which began at 6am yesterday. Founded in 2003, the Jameah Islameah school had only nine pupils, aged between 12 and 15, when it was inspected by Ofsted last December. In a damning report, inspectors said that the school did not provide satisfactory education or a broad and balanced curriculum for its pupils. It is understood that the 3m former convent set in 54 acres of woodland has been visited by Abu Hamza, the jailed radical cleric. The local MP, Charles Hendry, said that Hamza had reportedly brought a group of followers to the school one weekend, but had been asked to leave by its management. Hamza is currently serving a seven-year prison sentence for inciting his followers to kill non-Muslims. One local resident who refused to be named said rumours had been circulating for "some time" that the school was being used to teach young Muslim extremists. "The school does nothing to integrate in the community. You rarely see any of the pupils or people associated with the school in the village." The raid which triggered the police operation at the Jameah Islameah School was at a Chinese Halal restaurant in Southwark on Friday night. More than 50 police officers entered the restaurant at 10pm and ordered all the suspects and customers to stay inside. Mehdi Belyani, who owns the restaurant where the arrests took place, said a group of around 15 men and two small boys had come in for dinner an hour before the police arrived. "The police stayed for more than two hours talking to the group one by one," said Mr Belyani. "The men were very calm and I could not hear what was being said. When the police came in to my restaurant they apologised but said they were suspicious of some of the customers." The arrests in London are understood to have followed months of surveillance but are not connected to the suspected plot to blow up transatlantic planes. The 12 men picked up in Southwark and the two arrested under anti-terror laws elsewhere in South and East London on Friday night are currently being held at Paddington Green police station. A further two suspects were arrested in unrelated dawn raids on Saturday morning at three addresses in the Cheetham Hill area of Manchester and are also currently in custody. On Friday, it was revealed that police and intelligence agents are attempting to track thousands of people believed to be directly or indirectly involved in terrorism. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke, head of the Met's anti-terror branch, said in an interview with the BBC that the threat from extremism was being generated in the UK. "What we've learned since 9/11 is that the threat is not something that's simply coming from overseas into the United Kingdom," he said. "What we've learned, and what we've seen all too graphically and all too murderously, is that we have a threat which is being generated here within the United Kingdom." There were two unrelated arrests in Manchester as officers searched three houses in the Cheetham Hill area. The two suspects were both relatives of a man arrested last month, said Omar Shaukat, a family friend. Neither he nor police identified the suspects. Afzal Khan, the former lord mayor of Manchester and now a race relations adviser, said the outlawed radical group Al-Muhajiroun had been recruiting members in the area, a diverse neighbourhood where Muslims and Jews live in close proximity. The area's Muslims have pushed most of the group's members out of local mosques in the past two years, and one imam even used physical force to stop a fundamentalist from operating in his mosque, Khan said. "This community stood up to extreme elements long before Prime Minister Tony Blair began urging moderate Muslims to confront fundamentalists," he said. However, he conceded, "There are still these unsavoury elements operating here." Anti-terror police yesterday raided what is being reported as allegedly Britain's first home-grown jihad training school after a lengthy surveillance operation by the security services. Scotland Yard has confirmed that the operation, at the Jameah Islameah School near Crowborough in East Sussex, is linked to the arrest of 14 men in London on Friday night, including 12 at a Chinese Halal restaurant. Police have set up a three-mile exclusion zone around the property as they continue to question the men, who are believed to have been visitors to the school. Those under investigation are believed to include Abu Abdullah, who was described last night as Abu Hamza's No 2. The former spokesman for the cleric has repeatedly caused controversy. He recently said that President George W Bush is a "scalp that needs to be taken" and that he would "love" to kill British soldiers in Afghanistan. The News of the World quoted a Home Office source as saying the school was being used to host training weekends for militant Muslim youths. "The training was extreme and macho. It involved endurance in bad weather and bonding. In that sense it was like combat training. They were being groomed for terror." Police said that the people in the school had been "very co-operative" and that no arrests had been made following the search, which began at 6am yesterday. Founded in 2003, the Jameah Islameah school had only nine pupils, aged between 12 and 15, when it was inspected by Ofsted last December. In a damning report, inspectors said that the school did not provide satisfactory education or a broad and balanced curriculum for its pupils. It is understood that the 3m former convent set in 54 acres of woodland has been visited by Abu Hamza, the jailed radical cleric. The local MP, Charles Hendry, said that Hamza had reportedly brought a group of followers to the school one weekend, but had been asked to leave by its management. Hamza is currently serving a seven-year prison sentence for inciting his followers to kill non-Muslims. One local resident who refused to be named said rumours had been circulating for "some time" that the school was being used to teach young Muslim extremists. "The school does nothing to integrate in the community. You rarely see any of the pupils or people associated with the school in the village." The raid which triggered the police operation at the Jameah Islameah School was at a Chinese Halal restaurant in Southwark on Friday night. More than 50 police officers entered the restaurant at 10pm and ordered all the suspects and customers to stay inside. Mehdi Belyani, who owns the restaurant where the arrests took place, said a group of around 15 men and two small boys had come in for dinner an hour before the police arrived. "The police stayed for more than two hours talking to the group one by one," said Mr Belyani. "The men were very calm and I could not hear what was being said. When the police came in to my restaurant they apologised but said they were suspicious of some of the customers." The arrests in London are understood to have followed months of surveillance but are not connected to the suspected plot to blow up transatlantic planes. The 12 men picked up in Southwark and the two arrested under anti-terror laws elsewhere in South and East London on Friday night are currently being held at Paddington Green police station. A further two suspects were arrested in unrelated dawn raids on Saturday morning at three addresses in the Cheetham Hill area of Manchester and are also currently in custody. On Friday, it was revealed that police and intelligence agents are attempting to track thousands of people believed to be directly or indirectly involved in terrorism. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke, head of the Met's anti-terror branch, said in an interview with the BBC that the threat from extremism was being generated in the UK. "What we've learned since 9/11 is that the threat is not something that's simply coming from overseas into the United Kingdom," he said. "What we've learned, and what we've seen all too graphically and all too murderously, is that we have a threat which is being generated here within the United Kingdom." There were two unrelated arrests in Manchester as officers searched three houses in the Cheetham Hill area. The two suspects were both relatives of a man arrested last month, said Omar Shaukat, a family friend. Neither he nor police identified the suspects. Afzal Khan, the former lord mayor of Manchester and now a race relations adviser, said the outlawed radical group Al-Muhajiroun had been recruiting members in the area, a diverse neighbourhood where Muslims and Jews live in close proximity. The area's Muslims have pushed most of the group's members out of local mosques in the past two years, and one imam even used physical force to stop a fundamentalist from operating in his mosque, Khan said. "This community stood up to extreme elements long before Prime Minister Tony Blair began urging moderate Muslims to confront fundamentalists," he said. However, he conceded, "There are still these unsavoury elements operating here."

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