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Monday, 29 October, 2001, 15:24 GMT
UK Muslims 'killed' in Afghanistan
Sidewinder missile on F-14 Tomcat aboard USS Carl Vinson
An Islamic group says the Britons died fighting the US
Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon has warned UK Muslims of the dangers of joining the Taleban after three Britons were reportedly killed in Afghanistan.

Mr Hoon said those who survived could face legal action if they made it home.

Two men from Luton, Bedfordshire, and another man from Crawley, West Sussex, were killed on Wednesday during US-led bombing raids on the Afghan capital of Kabul, a spokesman for Islamic group al-Muhajiroun told the BBC.


There's a lot of unhappiness among Muslims in Luton and the rest of the country about the attitude of the West

Akbar Khan
Community leader in Luton
Mr Hoon said: "I hope that anyone who is contemplating going to Afghanistan does think very carefully about the consequences both to them and their families in terms of the grief they might suffer, as well as the legal action that might follow on their return - if they were to return."

There were reports at the weekend that Britons who fired on British troops in Afghanistan could be charged with treason.

Five 'martyred'

The UK Foreign Office has not confirmed the deaths of the three British men.

According to al-Muhajiroun, Afzal Munir and Aftab Manzoor, both 25 and from Luton, were killed in the Afghan capital Kabul.

Hasan Butt, leader of the al-Muhajiroun in Lahore, Pakistan, said the men had gone to Afghanistan in early October to wage jihad (holy war) against the unjust policies of America.

Mr Butt said: "We have learned from our contacts that they were martyred by the American bombing on Wednesday."

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Monday that he had confirmed reports of up to 100 Muslim men coming the West to fight a jihad, 60% of whom he believed were from Britain.

"It's absolutely normal for any Muslim...to be more than happy to go and sacrifice his life for the noblest cause on this earth, which is to live and die for Islam."

A house destroyed in Kabul
The US bombing campaign is entering its fourth week

Community leader Akbar Khan, who runs Building Bridges, an anti-racist group in Luton, confirmed that two young British men died in Afghanistan and said growing numbers of Muslims had been joining up to fight.

"There's a lot of unhappiness among Muslims in Luton and the rest of the country about the attitude of the West," he said.

The BBC's Barnie Choudhury said Luton was not seen as "a hotbed of Muslim fundamentalism".

But he said there were growing reports of many young Muslim men "going missing".

Welfare role

The al-Muhajiroun claims hundreds of Muslims are making their way to Pakistan.

Prof Masood Hazarvi, the priest at the men's local mosque, the Central Mosque, said: "We have banned people distributing posters and pamphlets calling for jihad against the US."


He was probably doing some welfare stuff, handing out blankets or food or something to refugees

Sharafat
Crawley mosque
Mr Butt said the three men were not members of al-Muhajiroun.

Al-Muhajiroun is one of the several international Islamic groups which operate in Pakistan to promote the establishment of a true Islamic state.

A third man who is believed to have died attended a mosque near his home in Crawley.

Its chairman, Sharafat, said the man may have been visiting his family in Pakistan close to the border with Afghanistan.

"He was probably doing some welfare stuff, handing out blankets or food or something to refugees," he said.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Niall Dickson in Luton
"There is a deep unease in this community"
Inayat Bunlawalla, Muslim Council of Britain
"At any time there are thousands of British Muslims in Pakistan"

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See also:

29 Oct 01 | England
British Muslim deaths 'a waste'
28 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Blair urges patience over war on terror
26 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Blair outlines UK troop decision
27 Oct 01 | Scotland
Anti-war rally against bombing
29 Oct 01 | UK
'My allegiance is to Allah'
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