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Monday, 29 October, 2001, 19:42 GMT
British Muslim deaths 'a waste'
Prayers in Luton's Central Mosque
The two men from Luton were both married
Two men from Luton who are said to have died in a US-led bombing raid on Afghanistan should never have been there, say the town's community leaders.

Afzal Munir and Aftab Manzoor, both 25, were reported killed in the capital Kabul.

They had gone out there to fight a jihad or holy war for the Taleban, said members of al-Muhajiroun, the controversial British Islamic organisation.

Muslim leaders from the Bedfordshire town say the two men supported a minority view, and most backed the war on terror.

These youngsters have been influenced by their masterminds who sit in London

Mohammed Bashir, community leader
Mohammed Bashir, chairman of Khidmat, an Asian welfare centre, said: "People feel for those who died in Afghanistan and their families.

"But the Muslim community in Luton is supporting the war against terrorism.

"These youngsters have been influenced by their masterminds who sit in London."

'No sense'

Mohammed Sulaiman is president of Luton's Central Mosque and knows the families of both men.

He said: "The live's being lost in Afghanistan is a very sad thing for the community and the mother and father.

"Nobody would want anybody with any sense to go to Afghanistan and get killed."

Mr Manzoor, a taxi driver, had a wife and a seven-month-old girl who lived in Pakistan, said Mr Sulaiman.

Mr Munir was also married.

He went for jihad. He kept talking about the jihad

Mohammed Sulaiman, religious leader
Mr Sulaiman said he had spoken to Mr Manzoor's father.

"He said he didn't know why he went. He took his passport and 1,600 and has gone.

"He is only young and doesn't know anything about the war. It is not his job to go and have war with no training.

"He went for jihad. He kept talking about the jihad."

'Not representative'

He said he believed the two men were wrong to think of the war in Afghanistan as a jihad.

He said the al-Muhajiroun group, which announced the deaths of the men, did not represent the views of most Muslims.

"Shahed" says the two men have become martyrs
Luton's spokesman for the group, who would only be named as Shahed, said he knew Mr Munir and he was not a member of al-Muhajiroun.

"He wasn't a member of any Islamic groups," he said.

"He was a very quiet, calm person. He wasn't a violent person. He was very shy and didn't speak a lot.

"We don't know how he went to Afghanistan and became a martyr."

He said: "I am surprised they went out there for fighting. Who sent them there I haven't a clue. We had no role in that."

'Blinkered view'

A spokesman for the Call to Islam bookshop in Luton said it actively opposed the al-Muhajiroun group.

He said some people in the town were not convinced that the two men had gone out to fight in Afghanistan.

"They may be there anyway. Some people say one was killed in a car accident."

He said al-Muhajiroun "promotes a very blinkered view of Islam".

"They are giving Muslims very bad publicity. A lot of extreme views which do not represent Islam at all.

"They are calling for people to go Afghanistan but they are sitting here in Luton."

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