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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 May, 2003, 14:55 GMT 15:55 UK
Suicide bomber's family in shock
Asif Hanif
The news has shaken the neighbourhood where Hanif lived
The family and friends of a young British Muslim, believed to have become the first foreign suicide bomber in Israel, are in shock.

Asif Mohammed Hanif, 21, is said to have blown himself up in a Tel Aviv pub, killing three people and injuring more than 50.

But at his former home in Hounslow, west London, his brother Taz said he "wasn't that sort of person".

"Anyone who knew him would tell you. He was just a big teddy bear - that's what people said about him," he told the Sun newspaper.

He said: "We used to watch the news and our parents said the suicide stuff is not good.

"What do you achieve by killing yourself and killing other people?"

Bright future

Two of Hanif's friends, Tanveer Khan, 23, and Shazad Gill, 21, were still struggling to come to terms with the news.

Wiping away tears, they said the image of an international terrorist or Islamic martyr was not the Asif they knew.

He was honourable and very polite and I never heard about any kind of politics from him
Mohammad Hashmi
"I can't believe he would take his own life, he had so much going for him," Mr Khan told BBC News Online.

"I might understand if he had no family and nothing to look forward to, but he loved his family and was clever.

"He was going to be a teacher."

Mr Khan said he had known Hanif most of his life. He said Hanif had been a religious person since his teens but had never spoken about suicide bombing or jihad or holy war.

Mr Gill said that as Muslims they did not believe in suicide, let alone taking other lives.

"He can't have done it on his own free will," he said.

He said he could not blame Hanif and believed he must have been heavily influenced by someone else.

Both friends are clinging to the slim hope that Hanif's passport had been stolen and he is not the dead bomber.

The family home of alleged suicide bomber Asif Mohammed Hanif
The family home of alleged suicide bomber Asif Mohammed Hanif
"He knows Islamic people around the world," said Mr Khan.

"If it was him, he was idiotic for doing it. He must have been brainwashed. But someone could have taken his passport and used his name."

Mohammad Hashmi was, until 1994, the imam of Hounslow mosque which Hanif attended.

Imam Hashmi, who lives opposite the Hanif home, said:

"As I know him, he was honourable and very polite and I never heard about any kind of politics from him," he said.

He said suicide attacks went against their religion.

"I do not agree with the killing of innocent people or any kind of terrorism.

"In the Koran it is forbidden strictly. Islam says these people will be in hell forever."


There are reports Hanif had been seen handing out leaflets urging Muslims to donate to the Palestinian cause but friends say this would have been for charitable causes.

The street where the Hanif family live is a quiet road, their home a red brick house indistinguishable from many of the neighbours.

Asif did well in business studies and was a well-liked and respected pupil
Kevin Prunty
The community of white, black and Asian neighbours alike have been knocked sideways by the news that an international suicide bomber may have been living on their doorstep.

Lela Avenue's Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinator Bill Gallup, 51, said Hanif was a friendly lad who would always say hello and offer to help out if needed.

Mr Gallup, who said he was usually a "strong geezer", said he was devastated by the news and was visibly shaken.

"I do feel sorry for the people killed or injured but I feel very sad for the family," he told BBC News Online.

"He was very polite, very unassuming, just a lad really. Last time I saw him a couple of months ago he waved and said hello.

"I just can't believe he has done what they say he has done. I pray that it is a mistake."

Mr Gallup said it was a friendly neighbourhood with no major problems.

"This could be any street in any town in any part of the country," he said.

Hanif was a "well liked and respected pupil" at Cranford Community College, Hounslow, which he attended for eight years, said headteacher Kevin Prunty.

Quiet neighbours

In a statement, he said the business studies student went on to study at the University of Damascus.

Mr Prunty said: "Asif did well in business studies and was a well-liked and respected pupil.

"This news has come as a complete shock which

The Hanifs' 84-year-old next door neighbour, who would only give her name as Sybil, said she did not know the family well but was "flabbergasted".

"They are not the kind of family that mixes. They kept themselves to themselves. I did not interfere with them and they did not interfere with me.

"We would just say hello every now and again."

Sybil, who has lived in the street for more than 50 years, said the Hanifs moved into the neighbourhood about two years ago.

BBC London's Tom Edwards
"There is shock and disbelief in Hounslow"

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