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Militant Islam Monitor > Articles > How a UK Muslim youth went from cricket and cars to plots and bombs

How a UK Muslim youth went from cricket and cars to plots and bombs

July 6, 2006


From cricket and cars to plots and bombs

How secret transformation took place in home city
Tanweer's radical motives finally revealed in video

Sandra Laville and Vikram Dodd
Friday July 7, 2006
The Guardian

Wearing a red and white checked keffiyah, his face is bearded, his cheeks sunken and his eyes unflinching. As he gives his justification for blowing himself up on the Aldgate tube exactly a year ago today, he speaks in a broad Yorkshire accent and lifts his right hand to emphatically jab his index finger at the camera.

It is an image as far removed from the one he portrayed on the streets of Beeston as is possible to imagine. There Shehzad Tanweer was the cricket-playing son of a successful Pakistani businessman. Intelligent, good looking and well integrated into British society, he studied sports science at university, drove a red Mercedes, wore designer clothes and loved playing football in the local park.

The journey from an apparently perfect son to a suicide bomber steeped in the ideology of al-Qaida took place, it appears, in complete secrecy. It began under the mentorship of his fellow suicide bomber Mohammed Sidique Khan at a youth club in Beeston, took in a terrorist training camp in Pakistan, and it is believed trips across the border into Afghanistan. Few in the community in which he grew up could have guessed that Tanweer's increased interest in religion at age 17 would have been perverted and led him to mass murder.

Friends and family merely noticed that he had grown a beard, stopped drinking and was devoting more and more time to religious study. For his parents, Mohammed Mumtaz and Parvaz Akhtar, his interest in religion was to be encouraged in an area of high youth unemployment and the temptations of crime.

Tanweer's father, who owned a fish and chip shop in Beeston, gave him spending money on the fateful trip to Pakistan in November 2004 with Khan, where it is believed the suicide video was made. Tanweer, who had dropped out of his sports science degree, had told his parents he was going to pursue his Islamic studies. When he returned, friends and family noticed how much weight he had lost. But Tanweer, who was known as Kaki (little one), was careful not to let his mask drop. He continued meeting friends, playing football in Cross Flatts park and donning his cricket whites for the local team.

But he began to spend more and more time with Khan, who had moved with his wife and baby to Dewsbury. Some weeks before July 7, he and his friend Khan travelled to north Wales, where they were pictured screaming with laughter on a whitewater rafting trip.

Over the next few days and weeks Tanweer was also often seen at the home of the 18-year-old suicide bomber Hasib Hussain, a mile away from his own house in Beeston. He visited a flat in Alexandra Grove, which police later discovered was a bomb factory.

Friends noticed his hair had become lighter and put it down to a desire to look trendy, but the reason for the change was far from vanity; it was the effect of the chemicals used in the production of the bombs.

Nine days before the bombings, Tanweer travelled to London to carry out a reccie. He returned to be with his family for the last days of his life and on the evening of July 6 played cricket with his friends.

They noticed that the beard he had sported for several months had been shaved off. When asked, Tanweer replied he had shaved because it was summer, telling his friends, as he departed, that he would see them later.

At 3.58am the following day Tanweer, Khan and Hussain were on their way to what they saw as martyrdom in a hired Nissan Micra down the M1 from Leeds.

At 8.23am Tanweer, in dark clothes and wearing his rucksack packed with explosives, boarded an eastbound Circle line train. He took a seat in the second carriage from the front and at 8.50am detonated the bomb that secured his place in history.

Yesterday as his family were preparing to leave Beeston to escape the media attention of the anniversary, they received a phone call from the police to warn them the video was about to be released by the Arabic TV station al-Jazeera.

And at lunchtime on television sets throughout Beeston, Shehzad Tanweer finally lifted his mask to explain from beyond the grave why he had taken part in the UK's first suicide bombings.

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