Page last updated at 11:34 GMT, Tuesday, 28 April 2009 12:34 UK
Trio cleared over 7/7 attacks



By Dominic Casciani
BBC News

Left to right: Waheed Ali, Mohammad Sidique Khan and bomb plotter Omar Khyam
Waheed Ali (left), Mohammad Sidique Khan and bomb plotter Omar Khyam

For four years the life of Mohammad Sidique Khan, the leader of the first suicide bomb plot on British soil, has been something of an enigma.

At first we saw his video martydom will - and later heard how the security services had trailed him when he appeared on the edge of another plot.

And so the trial and acquittal at Kingston Crown Court of three of Mohammad Sidique Khan's friends who were accused of helping him has been the closest thing to a public inquiry into the 7 July attacks - and the people and ideas who inspired Khan.

The story is about how a local community activist in the Beeston area of Leeds had a political ideology that outgrew Yorkshire, because he believed he could change the world through violence. It takes in a global ideology, simplistic interpretations of right and wrong and how a tight circle of jihadists reinforced each other's extremism.

According to Mohammed Shakil, one of the three men cleared of involvement in 7/7, Khan had a misspent youth drinking and smoking cannabis.

But as they grew older, Khan wanted to solve the problems in his community, including drug dealing, gang conflict with travellers and low self-esteem of local Muslim teens.

Khan saw religion as an important community tool, offering an anchor to local Pakistani and Bangladeshi teenagers through gym clubs at a local mosque and a community centre.

Path to radicalisation

But piety lost out to a complex mix of local and global Islamist politics. In many British-Pakistani communities, the simmering half-century dispute over Kashmir is a sore point.

A handwritten note by Hasib Hussain, detailing how to deal with various scenarios during the bombing
A note in the handwriting of bomber Hasib Hussain, found at the bomb factory

Hard-line Islamist propagandists have long played on those nationalist grievances and married them to disputes and conflicts in other parts of the world, such as Bosnia or the Middle East, where they can claim Muslims are under attack.

Armed militants in Pakistan and Afghanistan used go-betweens in British communities to tap into raw, political energy, telling young men like Khan that their duty was to this global Muslim brotherhood, not to their fellow British citizens.

Khan's journey to suicide started here - as a fund-raiser for the mujahideen, collecting cash in communities after Friday prayers.

In 2001, Waheed Ali, another of the three acquitted men, travelled with Khan to a camp in Kashmir run by Harakat ul-Mujahidin, a militant group operating in Kashmir, northern Pakistan and Afghanistan.

From the camp, they crossed into Afghanistan, reaching the Taleban's frontline with the Northern Alliance. They returned home days before the 9/11 attacks on the US.

Bookshop

Khan was now well-known thanks to his youth work and big personality.

And he used Iqra, a local Islamic charity and bookshop, as a hub of Islamist political activity which increased in the wake of 9/11.

In court, a statement from one local man said there had been a row at Iqra over hard-line literature. Waheed Ali said in his evidence that the shop had put out a leaflet repeating a conspiracy theory blaming Jewish people for al-Qaida's attacks on America.

Khan's views were hardening and in the summer of 2003 he attended a second training camp, accompanied by Mohammed Shakil.

This is a one-way ticket, Bruv, and you agree with that yeah and you're happy with this
Omar Khyam to Sidique Khan, February 2004

At that camp they trained with Omar Khyam, another British man later convicted of plotting to detonate a massive fertiliser bomb in a shopping centre or nightclub. This link places Khan at the heart of a large national network of extremists. He was not a loner.

It was that association that led to Khan and Mr Ali being recorded by the security services in 2004, more than a year before the London attacks. Officers were following Khyam's plot - and on one occasion Khan sat in his car, seeking advice about fighting abroad.

In one crucial 2004 conversation, Khyam told Khan that fighting abroad would be a "one-way ticket, Bruv".

Prepared to die

That wasn't a thought that put him off.

Khan was immersed in jihadist texts and ideology. And one particular account of life and death in Afghanistan was personally important to the Leeds man.

Waheed Ali, Sadeer Saleem and Mohammed Shakil
Waheed Ali, Sadeer Saleem and Mohammed Shakil dened the charge

"Suraqah al-Andalusi" died during a December 2001 US bombardment of al-Qaeda positions in Tora Bora.

The nom de guerre suggests he was Spanish - but evidence points to the 28-year-old being British.

Suraqah was in Afghanistan writing reports for a UK-based jihadist website when Khan visited in the late summer of 2001. We don't know if they met - but they moved in very similar circles - and Suraqah died within months of Khan's time in the country.

The Leeds man was touched by Suraqah's claimed martyrdom. His own will drew heavily on that left by his predecessor.

Khan delayed his plans to leave the UK until after the birth of his daughter. But by the autumn of 2004 he was arranging a training camp for himself and Shehzad Tanweer - and he clearly did not expect to return.

He recorded a home video saying goodbye to the baby girl he held lovingly on his knee.

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Mohammad Sidique Khan says farewell to his daughter (her face is obscured to protect her identity)

But within days of reaching Pakistan, the plan changed. Khan's wife, Hasina Patel, noted in her diary for 26 November: "S [Sidique] rang - good news! - back by Feb?"

Khan had been given an opportunity to do more than die anonymously on an Afghan battlefield - and he took the offer with both hands.



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