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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 February 2006, 17:58 GMT
Mosque raid findings revealed
As Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri is convicted of race hate crimes, police have revealed the details of a raid on north London's Finsbury Park Mosque in 2003.

See items seized in the raid on Finsbury Park mosque in 2003

The Metropolitan Police faced criticism from some Muslim leaders when they took the controversial step of raiding the mosque in the early hours of 20 January 2003.

But, after uncovering equipment which detectives believe may have been used in UK-based terror camps, senior officers believe their action was justified.

Dozens of officers in body armour used battering rams to enter the building to start three days of searches.

The full details of equipment, weapons and terrorism paraphernalia can only now be revealed as Abu Hamza's trial is over.

Among the haul - some of which was found close to Abu Hamza's office - were chemical warfare protection suits, pistols, CS spray and a stun gun.

A gas mask, handcuffs, hunting knives and a walkie-talkie were also found.

Ricin breakthrough

Aside from military-style equipment, police also found more then 100 stolen or forged passports and identity documents, credit cards, laminating equipment and chequebooks hidden under rugs. More than 3,000 in cash was also recovered.

Kamel Bourgass

But it was the discovery of what was thought to be ricin at a flat in nearby Wood Green earlier that month that had led to the raid.

Evidence found at that raid linked al-Qaeda suspect Kamel Bourgass to Finsbury Park.

A week after the raid in Wood Green, Bourgass was arrested at a flat in Manchester on suspicion of making poison.

As he tried to escape, he stabbed Det Con Stephen Oake to death and seriously injured three other officers.

He was jailed for life in 2004.

Like other illegal immigrants, Bourgass had used the mosque as a place to stay, even using it as his postal address for correspondence with the immigration service.

Abu Hamza outside Finsbury Park mosque
Abu Hamza preached outside the mosque after he was banned

He had stayed there in the weeks before his attempts to make ricin were discovered.

A week after the arrest of Bourgass, the decision was taken to launch Operation Mermant - the raid on the mosque.

Guided by the light of a helicopter beam, the officers battered their way into the building.

Muslim officers accompanied police on the raid with officers wearing overshoes as a sign of respect.

Abu Hamza dismissed

The nature of the raid has not been made public until now, for fear of prejudicing Abu Hamza's trial.

It was condemned by the cleric as "provocative", "silly" and "illogical".

Following an investigation by the Charity Commission, Abu Hamza was suspended from his post at Finsbury Park mosque in April 2002.

The commission concluded that he had used his position for "personal and political, rather than charitable, purposes".

But he was not formally dismissed until February 2003 - weeks after the raid.

The mosque was closed and boarded up for months after the raid before officially reopening in February 2005 with a new board of trustees, who have heralded a fresh start for the mosque.






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