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Wednesday, 10 October, 2001, 12:09 GMT 13:09 UK
Police investigate Blair 'death threat'
Tony Blair addresses British troops in Oman
Blair: "Those going into action face greater danger"
Scotland Yard is investigating comments allegedly made by a spokesman for a fundamentalist Muslim group based in London that Tony Blair is a "legitimate target" for Muslims.

A Pakistan-based spokesman for Al Muhajiroun is alleged to have said that anyone who "wants to get rid" of the prime minister would "not be punished under Islamic law but praised".


I think his comments might have been taken out of context because I doubt he would have said that

Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad
The comments have been denied by members of the Tottenham-based group. The spokesman in question is also reported in The Times to have denied making such a statement.

Mr Blair, who is currently on a visit to Oman, said he was not concerned by the comments.

The comments were allegedly made by the spokesman during a telephone conversation to a journalist at the London office of the news agency Agence-France Presse (AFP).

He is also reported to have said that government buildings including Downing Street and British military installations were "legitimate targets".

However, within hours of the conversation the comments were denied.

Danger

The head of the group, Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad, said he doubted anyone from the organisation would use such words.

"I think his comments might have been taken out of context because I doubt he would have said that," he said.

Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad
Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad heads the UK group
"Mr Blair was visiting Pakistan and he has sent his forces to bomb Afghanistan. Many Muslims there will think he has declared war on Islam.

"Even though Mr Blair has said that is not the case, they will think that."

But a spokesman for AFP said the conversation was taped and the agency is "100% sure" its reporter had spoken to the right person.

The issue has been referred to the police and is being formally investigated.

"We continue to monitor remarks made by other individuals and are in close consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service, " said a spokesman for Scotland Yard.


The people who are actually going into action are in far greater danger than me

Tony Blair
Asked if he would lose any sleep over the alleged comments, Mr Blair said: "No, I'm afraid it comes with the job."

And asked how he explained it to his children, he said: "I think they know it and understand it. It is one of those things you live with.

"The people who are actually going into action are in far greater danger than me, and my first thoughts are with them."

The prime minister is visiting British troops in Oman as he attempts to bolster morale and shore up Arab support for the coalition against terrorism.

On his three-day Middle East visit Mr Blair will again be stressing that the military action is a war against terrorism, not against Islam.

Tony Blair is greeted at Muscat Airport by Omani Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr. Omar Zawawi
Mr Blair arrived in Muscat at the start of his tour to shore up Arab support
In an interview with the BBC after arriving in Oman, Mr Blair said the Taleban's announcement that Osama Bin Laden was free to wage holy war should convince any doubters that military action was needed.

He said: "These developments simply confirm what we have been saying all the way through - unless we stop Osama Bin Laden and his terrorist network they will continue to hijack, to kill, innocent people.

"Secondly, we have always said that Osama Bin Laden and the Taleban are working hand-in-glove and this simply proves it."

Earlier he refused to rule out future action against other countries that harboured terrorists.

Mr Blair's visit to the Middle East follows a meeting with the United Arab Emirates president Sheikh Zayd in Geneva on Tuesday.

See also:

10 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Tory leader attacks Bin Laden 'fanatics'
19 Sep 01 | UK
UK to monitor Islamic group
10 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Blair on Middle East mission
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