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Monday, 20 January, 2003, 10:35 GMT
Q&A: Finsbury Park mosque raid

Why was a mosque raided by police investigating the discovery of ricin?

They are not saying that they discovered ricin there - they did not expect to find any chemicals.

What the police are saying is that they are very aware of the sensitivities of raiding a mosque.

This is the kind of thing which just lights a touch paper of anger in many Muslim communities.

But they say that the links between the premises around Finsbury Park mosque and suspected terrorist activity made it absolutely necessary for this operation to go ahead.

Sheikh Abu Hamza
Sheikh Abu Hamza has been questioned by police in the past

A lot of Muslims may not see it that way - they will see it as a raid against Islam.

But the police have said that this is part of the ongoing inquiries by Scotland Yard's Anti-Terrorist branch into alleged terrorist activity, not just in London but elsewhere in the UK.

It is linked to the original arrest made on 5 January when the ricin was discovered.

It is part of a nationwide operation to try and wrap up a network of suspected Algerian militants here in Britain.

Why have there been so many concerns about this mosque?

It has been known as quite a radical mosque - at least one attended by a number of radical Muslims.

Sheikh Abu Hamza is just one of them.

Quite a few people who have been linked to al-Qaeda have passed through that mosque and have made contacts there.

The mosque itself has tried very hard - or at least the board has tried hard - to keep its name clean.

For most Muslims in this country, Sheikh Abu Hamza, is peripheral - he is an extremist, he does not represent mainstream Islam.

But nevertheless some of the things he says do strike a chord.

This mosque has been watched for many years, right since December 1998, when Sheikh Abu Hamza was linked to British Muslims found guilty of terrorist offences in Yemen.

So there is quite a history here.

What are police looking for?

What the police and MI5 are most concerned about are the places that are less public, not really the mosques.

Those they can watch quite easily, they can infiltrate, they can listen to what is being preached.

What concerns them is the meetings that take place in private houses such as the one that was raided in Manchester.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Mike Sergeant
"Anti-terrorist police are still searching the mosque"
The BBC's Bob Sinkinson
"The mosque is being subjected to very close inspection"
Iqbal Sacranie from the Muslim council of Britain
"It's very sad and unfortunate"

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17 Jan 03 | England
20 Jan 03 | UK
17 Jan 03 | UK
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