-Caveat Lector-

>From the Sunday Times,
September 5 1999 BRITAIN

London-based Muslim calls for holy war
Mark Macaskill and Nicholas Rufford

A MUSLIM cleric is running the risk of being deported after calling for
attacks with biological weapons on western targets. Omar Bakri Muhammad, a
refugee and father of seven living in north London, has emerged as the
extreme voice of international Muslim fanaticism. He is a friend of Abu
Hamza, the mullah with metal claws for hands, who was linked to the Britons
imprisoned in Yemen on terrorist charges.

In an open letter read out in mosques across Britain and published on the
internet, Bakri called on Muslims to rise up in a jihad, or holy war,
against America and its allies.

Bakri, who has claimed disability benefit and income support, addressed his
call to Osama Bin Laden, the terrorist suspected of bombing two American
embassies and murdering 256 people. Bakri invited Bin Laden to "aim your
weapons at occupying forces". "May Allah protect you and grant you victory,"
he said. He later advocated the use of germ agents against westerners
occupying holy lands. The letter was taken off the internet after American
officials complained.

David Lidington, shadow Home Office minister, said Bakri's "grotesque"
remarks would cause offence to most people, including British Muslims, and
called on the government to take appropriate action.

The Home Office was studying a copy of Bakri's letter last night. "We do not
discuss individual cases, but the home secretary has powers under the
Immigration Act to refuse entry or deport nationals if he is satisfied that
a person's presence in the UK is not conducive to the public good," it said.

Bakri, 41, the founder of Al-Muhajiroun - the Emigrants - came to Britain
from Saudi Arabia in 1985, where he was threatened with arrest after
preaching jihad. He was granted asylum. He uses an orange disability badge
in his car and has a free public transport travel permit.

Last week Bakri said that civilian casualties were inevitable in a holy war:
"Using any biological weapons in self-defence is, in Islam, permissible, and
I believe that we are currently operating under a defensive jihad.
Obviously, we regret what could happen to innocent people, but there are
always people who are war casualties or, if you like, victims of war."

War cry: Bakri advocates germ warfare against the West

His open letter to Bin Laden was posted on his own website and read in
mosques in Sheffield, Bradford, Leicester and London. Yossef Bodansky,
director of the United States Task Force on Terrorism, said: "Bakri knows
that his letter will be acted upon and that is why he has written it." It
amounted to an incitement to violence.

Bodansky said Bin Laden had taken encouragement from Bakri's message and had
issued a reply that was read out in mosques in Pakistan and Britain. The
American government is offering a reward of $5m for information leading to
the capture of Bin Laden, who is blamed for terrorist attacks on American
embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, last year.

Bakri first came to the attention of the British government in 1991, when he
allegedly called for the assassination of John Major for Britain's part in
the Gulf war. He says the British are a legitimate target "because London
called for the destruction of the Khalifate [the international Islamic
state]". He reserves his harshest words for America and for the "terrorist,
blaspheming, Jewish, murdering, pirate state of Israel".

He works from an office in a business park in Tottenham, north London. The
office is registered as Info 2000 Software Ltd, but when The Sunday Times
called last week he admitted the name was a cover. He spends his days using
the internet to rally support for his holy war and is planning a rally at
the Albert Hall later this month.

British Muslims backed calls for action against him. Ahmed Versi, editor of
Muslim News, a national publication, said: "We are concerned by the
statements he is making. They damage our position in the community and
create a negative image of Muslims."

Ahmed & Co, Bakri's solicitor, said Bakri "strongly takes issue with the
wild and erroneous interpretations placed by Bodansky on the contents of his
open letter to Bin Laden". He also "publicly condemns" terrorism, it said.

oOne of the three suspects held in Britain in connection with the American
embassy bombings was accused yesterday of swearing allegiance to the Al
Quade group, headed by Bin Laden. Washington is seeking extradition of
Khalid Al Fawwaz, 36, a leading member of the London-based Advice and
Reformation Committee, which the FBI claims was a front for Al Quade.

Additional reporting: Kevin Dowling

Dan S

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