Page last updated at 22:07 GMT, Sunday, 10 January 2010

Islamists cancel Wootton Bassett protest plans

Anjem Choudary
Anjem Choudary is the group's spokesman

A radical Islamist group has cancelled plans to hold an anti-war march through a town famous for honouring the UK's servicemen and women killed abroad.

Members of Islam4UK had planned to march through Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire, to honour Muslims killed in the Afghanistan conflict.

The government had been considering outlawing the group, which is said to have extremist links.

Earlier this week, Gordon Brown said plans for the march were "disgusting".

Families of soldiers who died in Afghanistan had condemned the planned march, and MPs signed a motion calling on the home secretary and local authorities to prevent the protest.

Wootton Bassett has become the focus of public mourning, with hundreds lining the streets every time hearses carrying the repatriated bodies of killed UK service personnel are driven through the town from nearby RAF Lyneham.

'Maximum publicity'

On Sunday, a statement from Islam4UK's leader, Anjem Choudary, said it had "successfully highlighted the plight of Muslims in Afghanistan".

The hearses carrying the coffins of six dead soldiers
People in the town have lined the streets for the repatriation processions

"We at Islam4UK have decided, after consultation with others including our Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad, that no more could be achieved even if a procession were to take place in Wootton Bassett," he said.

The group denied members had planned to carry 500 empty coffins through the town.

Islam4UK had previously said it had chosen Wootton Bassett to create maximum publicity.

The News of the World reported on Sunday that Home Secretary Alan Johnson would outlaw the group on Monday.

The newspaper said comments made by senior members of Islam4UK and on websites breached the Terrorism Act.

A Home Office spokesman said the final decision on whether to ban the group rested with Mr Johnson but he would not confirm the plan.

The whole announcement was to get media coverage
James Gray MP

"Proscription is a tough but necessary power to tackle terrorism," he said.

"Decisions on proscription must be proportionate and based on evidence that a group is concerned in terrorism as defined in the Terrorism Act 2000."

North Wiltshire MP James Gray said he was "extremely glad" Islam4UK had abandoned its plans, and he also condemned Mr Choudary's actions as a "media stunt".

"He was trying to make a political statement, the whole announcement was to get media coverage - he admitted that himself - and he achieved it. He received lots of coverage," he said.

Mohammed Shafiq, from the Ramadhan Foundation, said Mr Choudary had been deliberately provocative.

"His attempt to demonstrate at Wootton Bassett was set out to provoke hatred between communities and is not welcomed in the Muslim communities," he said.

"He and his cronies have no support in the British Muslim communities."

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Mail Online UK Islamist group that planned Wootton Bassett hate march is finally BANNED - 40 mins ago
Reuters UK Islamist group banned at centre of march row - 3 hrs ago
Sky News Hardline Islamist Groups To Be Banned - 3 hrs ago
Times Online Home Secretary bans extremist group Islam4UK - 4 hrs ago
ITN Islamic group calls off anti-war march - 39 hrs ago

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