Page last updated at 13:41 GMT, Saturday, 22 November 2008

Profile: Rashid Rauf

By Dominic Casciani
Home affairs reporter, BBC News


Investigative journalist Amardeep Bassey describes Rashid Rauf's upbringing

So little is definite in the life of Rashid Rauf that he can be rightly described as an international enigma.

The British man thought killed by a US air attack in Pakistan has been linked to no end of jihadist conspiracies in the world media.

But if he is indeed dead, then many of the questions about his alleged activities will remain unanswered.

What is beyond doubt is that in 2006 the Birmingham-born British-Pakistani, thought to be in his late 20s, was implicated in an alleged massive plot to bomb airliners crossing the Atlantic.

He later escaped from Pakistani custody in mysterious circumstances, with Western officials resigned to the idea that he may never be found again.

Uncle killed

Rashid Rauf is one of five children of a baker, Abdul Rauf, who came to live in the UK in the 1960s. The family have a successful bakery supplies business in the West Midlands.

Mr Rauf senior has been previously described to the BBC as a "very simple, God-fearing person". There is no suggestion that any family member knew of Rashid's later alleged activities.

Rashid Rauf enrolled at Portsmouth University in September 1999 - but left in the summer of 2002 without graduating.

A few weeks earlier, in Birmingham, his 54-year-old uncle Mohammed Saeed was found dead after a savage stabbing. Rashid Rauf was one of two men wanted by West Midlands Police for questioning in relation to the killing.

Rashid Rauf
Rashid Rauf is reported to have moved to Pakistan from Britain in 2002

According to Pakistani authorities, Rashid left the UK weeks after the death and stayed in the Punjab province.

And it's at this point that details about the young man's life become sketchy. Rashid married into the family of Maulana Masood Azhar, founder of Jaish-e-Mohammed.

The banned group had earlier become one of the most powerful armed Islamist organisations involved in attacks against India over the disputed region of Kashmir.

Over time, Jaish had developed also a broader anti-Western platform - and was implicated in the murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl.

Back in the UK, Azhar's preaching had long been influential among the most militant British-Pakistani campaigners involved in Kashmir. His personal appearances at a string of UK events long before 9/11 had led to significant fund-raising for the Kashmiri Mujahideen.

It's this connection back to the UK which elevated Rashid Rauf's alleged importance.

He is said to have played the role of a facilitator, connecting radicalised young British men with the Mujahideen in Pakistan.

US authorities say that while in Pakistan he became involved in an alleged 2006 plot to explode liquid bombs aboard transatlantic airliners.

The exposure of the alleged plot led to tough restrictions being imposed on air passengers across the globe.

Rashid Rauf was arrested in Pakistan and was remanded to Adiala prison which, according to human rights campaigners, has been the scene of physical abuse and torture of terrorism suspects.

In December 2006 he resurfaced in court. A judge dismissed terrorism charges but said he should still face explosives and false identity allegations.

The UK pressed for his extradition over the 2002 murder of his uncle.

That application was progressing when he escaped in December 2007. According to the official version of events, he managed to unlock his own handcuffs and escaped while being allowed to pray alone at a mosque near the courthouse. The mosque in question is said to have high walls leading to open fields.

It's not clear to this day whether that is genuinely what happened, the suspicion being that pro-Islamist intelligence officials in Pakistan helped the Briton to quietly flee.

'No bad habits'

However, when Rashid Rauf was arrested in August 2006, his grandmother insisted he was innocent.

"He has no bad habits nor did he keep bad company," Fazeelat Bibi told the BBC during an interview from the family's ancestral village of Haveli Bagal, about 100km south-east of Pakistan's capital Islamabad.

"He is a humane and God-fearing person, obedient and punctual at prayers. Even a cat would scare him and he would not even crush an ant under his feet."

She had not had any contact with Mr Rauf since he had left Birmingham four years previously, but said her last wish was to see him again.

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