Page last updated at 12:33 GMT, Thursday, 20 January 2005

Cleric denies UK al-Qaeda claims

Omar Bakri
Radical cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed

UK-based Islamic cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed has denied claims he is urging British Muslims to join al-Qaeda.

The Syrian-born preacher has been accused of using an internet sermon to encourage young people to join Osama Bin Laden's terrorist network.

But, in a GMTV interview, he said he was giving examples of groups - not "a call inciting people to take actions".

Police are studying his webcast, where he allegedly told listeners they were "obliged" to join the Mujahideen.

In an interview on Thursday with GMTV, he said that while he used the word al-jihad or "holy war" in the sermon, it did not always mean military action.


He said: "Jihad is also to look for a better job, to look for a better wife, to study, even to fight. And the word weapon, ask any Muslim, it does not always mean fighting."

The father of seven, was deported from Saudi Arabia because of his membership of a banned group. He came to the UK in 1985.

He caused outrage by suggesting that an attack on a British school - as in Beslan, Russia, - could be justified as long as women and children were not deliberately killed.

Bakri once referred to the 9/11 hijackers as the "magnificent 19".

He justified this by saying Bin Laden and President Bush were both leaders of different terrorist camps.

The Home Office has given him leave to remain in Britain for five years, but is reviewing this.

Home Office Secretary Charles Clarke has offered to assist Bakri if he wishes to return to Syria or the Lebanon.

My week as a terror suspect
20 Aug 04 |  Magazine
Bin Laden in his own words
15 Apr 04 |  South Asia
Profile: Mullah Mohammed Omar
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