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Last Updated: Monday, 30 April 2007, 12:12 GMT 13:12 UK
Bomb plot's roots in Pakistan
By Richard Smith
Home affairs correspondent, BBC News

Five men have been convicted of plotting a bomb attack in Britain. Most of the gang were Britons of Pakistani origin and many of them had spent time in training camps in Pakistan.

Pooj Khala, Waheed Mahmood's mother-in-law
With the blessing of God he will be found innocent. He's not that kind of man
Pooj Khala

Out in the Pakistani countryside, at the far end of a dirt track, stands a solitary white house. It has a passing resemblance to a Mediterranean holiday villa and, like some of them, it is not quite finished.

This is the house Waheed Mahmood was building for his family in Gujar Khan.

To his mother-in-law Pooj Khala, Mahmood is loving and generous, his so-called links with terror nothing but lies.

"We will pray to God. He is innocent, and God will help him. With the blessing of God he will be found innocent. He's not that kind of man," she told me.

But he appears to have been hiding a big secret. Waheed Mahmood and his friends were conspiring to cause an explosion in the UK.

The hills of northern Pakistan might seem a long way from Mahmood's home in the suburban sprawl of Crawley, West Sussex.

But it was here he and his friends learned techniques they could use to make a bomb.

Omar Khyam was another plotter with big links to Pakistan. While his parents grew up in Crawley, members of Omar's wider family are in the Pakistani military and its intelligence service, the ISI.

A JKLF office in Murree
Kashmiri rebel groups find plenty of sympathy in Pakistan

His family, like many Pakistanis, cared deeply about the disputed territory of Kashmir. That passion was passed on to young Omar.

It was during a family holiday in 1999 that Khyam first saw an outlet for his anger.

At the hill resort of Murree he met some men from a group called Al-Badr Mujahideen. They said he was welcome to do training in Kashmir but should grow a beard and dress more like a Muslim.

About six months later Khyam was again flying into Pakistan after telling his mother he was going on a college trip.

The confidence he had shown in Murree was growing. He hailed a taxi and said: "Take me to the mujahideen office".

They taught me everything I needed for guerrilla warfare
Omar Khyam

This time he got the training, at a camp in Muzaffarabad.

"They taught me everything I needed for guerrilla warfare in Kashmir, AK47s, pistols, sniper rifles, reconnaissance," said Khyam at his trial.

Khyam also claimed the ISI were the ones giving the training.

From 2001 the city of Lahore was home to Mohammed Babar, an American Muslim with extremist views.

The mountains of northern Pakistan
The mountains are safe havens. They are easy places to train. They are easy places to have ammunition and a supply of men
Ikram Hoti
Journalist

Babar would ultimately turn on Khyam and his friends and become the chief witness against them.

But three years earlier he, Khyam and several others discussed how they could become more involved in the jihad.

By then Khyam was working for al-Qaeda's third in command. He had already attended two training camps.

But he and Babar began planning another where his friends could learn to kill.

Their camp was near Malakand in the North West Frontier Province. It is here the Pakistani army regularly battles with extremists. Osama bin Laden is rumoured to have hidden near here on the Afghan border since 9/11.

'Safe havens'

Local journalist Ikram Hoti told me: "The mountains are safe havens. They are easy places to train. They are easy places to have ammunition and a supply of men. It's a kind of culture. You can feel easy there, you can breathe easy while talking about your plan for future terror."

Malakand street scene
The Pakistani military is often unwelcome in the Malakand area

We will never know what really happened at that camp.

Jawad Akbar said "it felt like boys with their toys" as he shot at a can.

But Babar painted a more impressive picture during his testimony at the Old Bailey: "They were learning how to shoot an AK47, how to shoot light machine guns, rocket launchers and experiment with making a bomb."

Whoever you believe, it seems there was something in the air.

Akbar said his love for the jihad started there. This was team building with a terrible aim.

Spiritual home

I asked the Pakistani government for an interview to discuss what they were doing to stop others following in the Crawley team's footsteps.

Despite numerous requests I was told no-one was available for comment.

For Khyam and the other young men from Britain, this corner of Pakistan was much more than an exotic venue for a firing range.

It was a chance to see the struggle first hand and meet fellow Muslims who hated the West.

From here the men headed back to the UK to begin plotting their attack.

But it may be telling that when Khyam was finally arrested, he was planning yet another visit to his spiritual home.

map of northern Pakistan





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