UK suicide bomber had ties to Al Muhajiroun - Police scrutinise extremist Islamist websites
July 14, 2005
Police scrutinise extremist Islamist websites
Although police do not yet know exactly where those responsible gained the expertise to make the bombs used last Thursday, they know there are any number of websites that could have pointed them in the right direction and put them in touch with similar-minded people.
Islamist groups often post instructions and videos on websites telling sympathisers how to make bombs from everyday materials. They also provide tips on which materials are hardest to detect and how to carry out a suicide bombing.
Last December, a 26-minute video was posted in a militant Islamic chatroom which showed how to construct a suicide bomb vest. It also gave details of the device's effective range.
Concern about such sites is not confined to the west. Earlier this year, the Saudi Arabian authorities set up an online service to counsel young people against joining al-Qaida. They also provided a hotline for families who fear their sons are thinking of enlisting with terrorist groups.
A campaign to force the main internet service providers to find and close down such sites has been going on for some time.
Beth Cox, head of counter terrorism at the Royal United Services Institute, said: "Just as we use the internet to improve mainstream communications and the performance of the economy, extremists use it to increase their communications and knowledge. There is no real way to regulate it and I can't see how there will be in the future."
Among the sites causing concern is Jihadunspun (JUS), a highly professional website which claims to present "a clear view of war on terror". It has been widely criticised in the US by agencies including the state department.
The site tells readers: "JUS translates al-Qaida statements daily in order to bring readers the other side of the war of 'terror'." It questions claims that al-Qaida was involved in the London bombing.
"The previously unknown group circulated a claim of responsibility shortly after this morning attacks, a copy of which was received by JUS," it says. "However this statement has some glaring errors in it that indicated to us that this material did not likely come from al-Qaida."
Also causing concern are the internet publications of the Party for Islamic Renewal. The site has uncritically published translated speeches by Osama bin Laden's presumed deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, including one entitled "The Freeing of Humanity and Homelands Under the Banner of the Qur'an."
The al-Muhajiroun site has also been scrutinised. Its leader, Omar Muhammad Bakri, has spoken of his ambition to see the "black flag of Islam" flying over Downing Street. It is understood that at least one of the suspects killed after the London blasts had links with members of al-Muhajiroun in Bedfordshire.
However, Massoud Shadjareh of the Islamic Human Rights Commission warned against placing too much value on the role played by extremist websites.
"There are a lot of websites I would like to see an end of, but we are a free society and we need to be careful before we curtail freedom of speech."
He added: "I don't think websites are creating the problem. What is creating the problem is the alienation of our youth [and] what is happening internationally. We don't have any arenas in our mosques for them to discuss these issues. We are pushing it underground."
Disbelief and fear in a town written off by Islamist extremists
Mohammad Sidique Khan had moved to Dewsbury with his wife within the last year and was barely known to locals. But his mother-in-law, Farida Patel, was a pillar of her community. A retired teacher, she had recently spearheaded a campaign against the closure of a school.
Sulaiman Kazi, a solicitor, said: "Until this incident there was no whiff of extremism. The message from the mosques was about self development," in contrast to injustices suffered by Muslims across the world. "People are revulsed how this could be done in their name."
Muslim leaders and community activists said whatever turned Khan into a mass murderer owed nothing to the teachings in their mosques and madrasas.
"The mosques are moderate," said Tahir Zaman, a 33-year-old businessman who left school with two GCSEs and made his fortune in property and from selling beds.
He added: "In 33 years here I have never heard of a talk by any iman on jihad. "The teachings here are different compared to London. Groups like al-Muhajiroun don't exist here."
Muslims in Dewsbury said extreme Islamic groups had given up trying to gain a foothold in Dewsbury, but still tried up the road in Leeds, which has a large student population. "Leeds is as far away for us as London," said Mr Zaman.
He was adamant that the community would have "cried out" if anybody had had the slightest inkling of what Khan was planning.
Dewsbury is a main base for the moderate Muslim charity Tableek-e-Jamat, which sends missionaries around the world and is a dominant force in the West Yorkshire town's Islamic ideology.
Sitting surrounded by beds at his factory, Kozee Sleep, Mr Zaman said: "I condemn the London bombing though I understand why it is happening; the reasons are in Chechnya, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia. But our sharia law does not permit us to kill."
In May's general election the far-right British National party received its largest vote in any constituency in Dewsbury, with some 5,000 people supporting it.
Yesterday the BNP was reported to be on the streets trying to exploit the tragedy.
A local Labour councillor, Jonathan Scott, said: "We have had the BNP circling around today and they are talking to people, trying to cause trouble. So we are here talking to the community to reassure people and prevent a knee-jerk reaction." Some have already suffered from the backlash to the bombings.
Ali, a taxi driver who sports a medium length beard, said: "I was sitting in the cab and this white man standing outside said: 'I want to fight you for what you have done in London, I want to square up to you'."
He added: "Yes I am scared. On the roads drivers swear at you, abuse about being a Muslim and a terrorist. Things are getting worse."
Habib Akudi's wife has even suggested he does not wear traditional Muslim clothes when he takes the train to London for business. It is the same train route the bombers are believed to have taken.
Mr Akudi is on the committee of one of the town's 15 mosques, and said: "My wife said I shouldn't travel to London. There have been discussions in the community about not going out, but I say we have to continue our lives."
He cannot believe what has been done in the name of his faith, but fears that Muslims may pay a price. "Trouble is going to happen because isolated idiots in the English community think they're doing something noble by knocking over some girl in a hijab."
Back in his cab, Ali lamented a gap he saw between the older and younger generations of Muslims in the town, especially young people who lose touch with their faith.
"Young and old, hardly a word is said even though they live in the same house, they hardly know each other. There's too much freedom. Parents can't reprimand their children if they do something wrong. That's why the gap is widening. The young are a mixed up race, some don't know right from wrong."