Algerian RedaHassaine, who infiltrated a mosque to warn the security services about terrorism, has become a British citizen. 28 Jan 2008 TV Features
Finding the Bombers An independent public inquiry into the events of 7th July 2005 may have been ruled out by departing Prime Minister Tony Blair, but the pressure for one will not go away.
Meanwhile the ongoing police investigation into the bombings has recently stepped up a gear with a series of arrests. Kurt Barling looks at the unanswered questions which have left the bereaved families of the murdered and survivors bewildered. Those directly affected by the atrocities on 7th July 2005 need answers. Closure is impossible without it. Victims I have spoken to are still angry about what they perceive to be inadequate compensation. For them knowing whether the whole affair was preventable is of the utmost importance. Of course the desire to know what more can be done to prevent future attacks means legitimate questions need to be asked, and answered, about the conduct of the security services and police in the years prior to 2005. Of particular interest is the way in which the intelligence services handled information coming out of Finsbury Park mosque in the years following Abu Hamza's takeover in 2000. The painstaking investigation by the police to find those who may have helped the bombers is now approaching its second year. Three men are due to return to the Old Bailey on June 8th after being charged with conspiring with the suicide bombers. Last week 4 other people including the widow of suicide bomber Mohammed Siddique Khan, the alleged ringleader, were arrested and brought to London to be interviewed by detectives from the Metropolitan Police anti-terror squad. All four were held on suspicion of aiding the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism. One of the key issues for the security and police services is how to deal with the prospect of a suicide bomber carrying out a threat. Unlike tackling the IRA bombers, who invariably did not want to die, the authorities cannot wait until the point of detonation to apprehend their suspected target. The Jean Charles de Menezes shooting showed everyone just how delicate a balance will need to be struck in the future. During the worst days of the IRA campaign on the mainland, warnings were telephoned prior to the bombs exploding. Sometimes this only gave the authorities' minutes to play with, but it meant from a strategic point of view that the danger to life was minimised and the onus was on the emergency services having plans to react speedily to a specific threat. Investigators would then sift through the debris caused by an explosion to identify evidence. These clues could ultimately lead them to an individual bomber or an IRA cell on the ground. The obvious difficulty faced by the same authorities now, is that they have to arrest prospective bombers well before they have left the evidence as a result of an atrocity. The absolute risk to life has changed the rules of the investigators game. By targeting civilians and locations randomly, and making it clear that they are prepared to die in the process, suicide bombers have also made the Muslim communities of Britain even more vulnerable to tough terror policing. Of course that may well be the point, to create conflict where none already exists. By its very nature suicide bombing pushes the police and security services into conflict with areas of civil liberties that are usually only tested in a court of law. If prospective perpetrators build into their plans not to be around to face justice, the police need to rely on prevention. This of course means a greater emphasis on intelligence led policing. Getting the intelligence right has been a significant problem since the end of the 1990s. First the security services didn't recognise the scale of the threat they faced, ignoring repeated appeals from the French security services in the wake of the bombing campaigns on the Paris Metro in 1995. Secondly they did not have in position, people who could do the job of gathering the intelligence properly in the venues where Islamic militants were operating. It still remains a mystery to many people how Abu Hamza was allowed to continue preaching on the streets outside Finsbury Park mosque after he had been ejected. As early as 2000 television programmes had secretly filmed him there and elsewhere, witnessing Jihad lectures and other hate filled sermons. Of course any independent public inquiry would have to address these questions and the answers may be uncomfortable. It may also present the emergency services with a distraction from the urgent job of averting more attacks. Reda Hassaine a former MI5 informant told me back in 2003 that he believed that Finsbury Park had become a “suicide factory”. He believed what this meant in practice, was that whilst Abu Hamza was in charge, young men (and in some cases boys) were being shown how it was possible to operate independently as small groups or cells. Reda Hassaine believed at some point in the future these cells would select the right moment to engage in Jihad against “Western” interests. These so-called “sleeper cells” are amongst the conspirators that the security services are now actively and urgently trying to target. In other words the problem has run away from where it was in 2005. Now the security services are playing a game of catch-up in the sure knowledge that if they fail more innocent people will be murdered. In this sense knowing what went wrong before 2005 may not help us tackle the problem we now face. This brings us back to the police investigation. The trawl for conspirators in an ongoing conspiracy is likely to draw in more innocent parties than an investigation which is specifically focussed on a crime that has already resulted in death and destruction. It is therefore self-evident that the police have to manage concerns in communities most likely to be affected more delicately. Last week's arrests yet again provoked angry reactions from those close to the people involved. The police handling was again criticised as unnecessary and heavy-handed. In recent months the level of police activity and intervention has also given Muslim radicals a new label to apply to those who are arrested and remanded in custody pending a trial. In a recent protest outside Paddington Green high security police station, Anjoum Choudhary referred to those arrested and now charged as “political prisoners”. Whilst these radicals have been progressively isolated from mainstream Muslim discourse, the more individuals from a Muslim background that are picked up by the dragnet approach, the more important it becomes that the police and security services are seen to be beyond reproach. All sides of the community have an interest in seeing a police investigation gathering enough evidence for the prosecutors to get a case into court. It should help explain some of what went on in the run up to July 7th 2005. It will lay before us the evidence that justifies the level of intervention in Muslim communities across the capital and it should offer some closure to the bereaved and surviving victims of the bombings. If an independent public inquiry does not happen, a trial may be the closest we'll get to the truth of what happened on that terrible day. Far from the public eye, we can only hope the authorities have already learned their lessons. London's security depends on it.
The Legacy ofFinsbury Park Mosque
KURT BURLING REPORTS
It is still not known how many of the men who worshipped atFinsbury Park were recruited to the radical cause. One man who provided intelligence reports to the French and British security forces, Reda Hassaine, told me recently that he believed there could still be several hundred young “brainwashed” men at large in the capital. It is Reda's belief that the modus operandi of the radical preachers who plugged into the al-Qaeda network was to organise sleeper cells. These sleeper cells may remain dormant for years before they strike. Although there is no concrete evidence for this, what I witnessed back in 2001 certainly suggested that the whole process had an element of brainwashing about it. In the end the messages of hate, vengeance and martyrdom were so strong that Reda's judgement cannot be discounted.
Vulnerability of the suicide bomber
The trial of those who failed to detonate their bombs on 21st July has highlighted the cult of the British suicide bomber. But as Kurt Barling argues it also shows how easily it could happen again.
By KURT BARLING, BBC NEWS
Of course few people at the time could have conceived that suicide bombers would be home-grown. Reda Hassaine was the exception and many people thought he was a scaremonger as a result. Reda had been passing information to the security services about the goings on at Finsbury Park Mosque since the late 1990s when Algerian extremists first started turning up there. He told me in 2001 that Abu Hamza had been brainwashing young men, in particular many who had come out of prison and were deeply alienated from society, to plan jihadi actions against the Khaffur (non-believers) wherever they may be found. Reda firmly believed that part of the methodology of the Finsbury Park extremists was to create as many terror cells as possible. These cells of a few men would ultimately work in a “freelance” capacity to hurt the “enemies of Islam”. No-one knows how many of these cells were inspired or still exist. We can only assume that when the head of the security services and the Commissioner of the Met Police talk about several hundred people under surveillance many of these are “graduates” of Finsbury Park.
We do now know that Muktar went to Pakistan for several months in December 2004. This was at the same time as Mohammed Siddique Khan who was believed to be the ringleader of the 7th July atrocities. Perhaps this was the last training session where Muktar was assigned his murderoustask.
Reporter: Terence McKenna Producer: Alex Shprintsen Editor: Annie Chartrand Camera: Maurice Chabot
The Finsbury Park Mosque in London has long been identified as a key recruiting ground for terrorists. Many young men recruited there ended up in the Afghanistan training camps of Osama Bin Laden.Journalist Reda Hassaine went undercover to find out about terrorist activities in Britain.An Algerian who fled his country because of death threats from the GIA terrorist group, Hassaine moved his family to Paris and then to London, where he was approached by French and British intelligence services to spy on Islamic radicals. “I know what I am doing is right. It's for humanity, for saving lives and trying to help many people across the world.” – Reda Hassaine journalist
“In Algeria there has been this kind of people like monsters. I mean when you get out from your house in the morning you have to say bye to all your family because you don't know if you are going back tonight,” says Hassaine. “So when I had been asked by the French to start to work with them it was for me. I had been given a chance to fight (the) people who sentenced me to death four years ago. “When I had been here in England I started to know many people and I found out exactly who's doing it – who is buying weapons, who is raising the money, who is claiming assassinations, who is claiming massacres – and I know it was a duty for me to fight these kind of people.”
When asked if he worries about Islamic radicals coming to get him, Hassaine says, “I am ready to die.”“And I know that if I will die I will die as a martyr, the same as they think themselves,” he says. “(I) know what I am doing is right. It's for humanity, for saving lives and trying to help many people across the world. I want them to understand which kind are these kind of people. It's not Islam what they are doing. They have nothing to do with Islam. Islam is complete peace religion, and I know I am ready to die if they want to get me.”
Do Our Spies Sex It Up? BY ANDREW GILLINGAN
For 8 years, from 1994 to 2002, Al Qaeda's chief recruiter in Europe, Abu Qatada, was allowed to live undisturbed in West London. Now he's in Belmarsh prison. But many of the hundreds of recruits he sent to training camps in Afghanistan remain at large.
Réda Hassaïne was one of the very few agents western intelligence had who was close to Abu Qatada and knew what he was up to. “A very, very dangerous man,” he says. “Abu Qatada was using them, was using the secret services. Because they were giving him cover.” If the secret services really did do a deal with Abu Qatada, it could have been disastrous.
In such uncertain times, it's vital that we know how good our intelligence services are and whether they are doing the right things.
But as Lord King, the first head of Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee admits, their ability to oversee is limited. They only have five staff compared with the 500 staff employed by the US Congressional committees and the Inspector General of the CIA.
SPY SECRETS: TRICKS OF THE TRADE
An intriguing new series exploring the labyrinthine world of espionage begins with this look at the role of the spy in our panic-stricken times. It offers a rare insight into how Britain's internal security service, MI5, and MI6, home to the real James Bond, operate.
The Algerian journalist Reda Hassaine explains how he inflitrated the Finsbury Park mosque with links to al-Qaeda, and there's a report on the “laundry” vans used to investigate the IRA in Northern Ireland during the 1970s. For those of you still harbouring images of the impeccably smooth Bond, this will be an eye-opener
Reporter: Tony Jones Australian Broadcasting Corporation
In 1998, Reda Hassaine came to the Finsbury Park Mosque in London posing as a recruit. He says he was shown how to obtain false ID cards that would entitle him to collect welfare payments from the British government under several false identities.
Hassaine finds Britain's inability to extradite Abu Qatada and others outrageous.“For me there is no difference between him and Osama bin Laden,” says Hassaine. “What (bin Laden) is doing is recruiting people, turning them and send them to do jihad which is the same case for Abu Qatada. He (has) all kinds of things which he should be put in prison (for) and be put in the international court of the Hague, the same as Slobodan Milosevic and many other people.” TONY JONES: Well, despite warnings from figures such as the Archbishop of Canterbury not to make Muslims scapegoats for the London bombings, it seems a backlash has begun. In New Zealand, mosques have been targeted and police in some Australian capital cities have also stepped up security. To discuss this and what exactly it is that radicalises young Muslims and attracts them to the teaching of militants, we're joined in our Melbourne studio by Sheikh Mohammed Omran. He is the iman of a Melbourne mosque and head of the al-Sunnah Wal-Jamaah association, which I think is fair to say is a fundamentalist Islamic organisation. Reda Hassaine is a journalist who fled Islamist terror in Algeria and ended up as an informer on Islamic militants for French intelligence, the British Special Branch and M-I5. He's in our London studio. Thanks to both of you for joining us. Sheikh Omran, after the news today from New Zealand, are you at all worried there will be a backlash against Australian Muslims? SHEIKH MOHAMMED OMRAN, ISLAMIC CLERIC: Oh, it could be. I'm really not that worried because Australian learn from their past experience how to take the media news. Until today, even the Prime Minister of Britain didn't accuse anyone yet. But yet the media of Britain or Australia or New Zealand or any other countries, they put it immediately to the Muslim insurgents or whatever they call it or al-Qaeda or something like that. But anyhow, as an Australian and a Muslim too, I don't have any fear of anyone in Australia to do any stupid act against their own people. TONY JONES: Sheikh Omran, staying with you for a moment - do you accept what the British Government, our own government and virtually all expert commentators are saying, that these London bombings at the very least bear the hallmarks of an al-Qaeda attack? MOHAMMED OMRAN: I can't say anything about that. I'm not the expert to say it is or it is not, but until now, they didn't accuse anyone, and this is exploration and we cannot take only assumption from someone, especially from the media, to accuse someone, and the people learned from the bust that they wait until the results come up. TONY JONES: But it is reported, for example, that leading Islamic clerics and scholars in Britain appear to have made that same assumption as their government, and some of them in fact are preparing a Fatwah against those who planned and carried out the London bombings. Now, would you ever consider, for example, issuing a Fatwah against Islamic terrorists? MOHAMMED OMRAN: First, issuing a Fatwah doesn't mean that who did that were the Muslims. Issuing the Fatwah is explaining our stand, as in Britain or Australia or anywhere else, against these attacks, and these civilian innocents go on between these two political issues. TONY JONES: Let me interrupt you there, Sheikh Omran and bring in Reda Hassain at this point. Now, do you believe the London bombings were the work of Islamic extremists? Let's put that question straight to you. REDA HASSAINE, JOURNALIST AND ISLAMIC EXPERT: I mean, for the moment, I think it is - there is some ingredients which can say that it is the mark of al-Qaeda, but up to now, what we can say is only speculation because there is no evidence yet about it. MOHAMMED OMRAN: Absolutely. TONY JONES: Why do you think so many people in Britain and around the world, Reda Hassaine, have sprung to the conclusion that this is very likely to be an al-Qaeda operation? Is it simply because there are similarities at so many points with the Madrid bombings, for example, or is it something more? REDA HASSAINE: There is so many point, like you said, about Madrid bombing, and there is another thing, in which people now are accusing Britain because they are participating in the war in Iraq, which led these people to carry out this attack, but it's still only speculation. On the other way, you have to understand that the problem of Iraq did start only in 2003, so the problem about the threat of terrorism were alive well before these kind of studies. So up to now, I mean, we cannot say anything to be certain about it, and I think we have to wait the first clue, then we have to point who done it, and people can say it is British Muslim or they may be something else. Yes, we know there is thousands of people have been recruited here in London and have been sent to Afghanistan to learn how to make bombs, how to kill, how to wage war and to do jihad, and they come back here in Britain and they are now sleepers, we can say, but up to now, I mean, we have no doubt. When you see the Chief of the Metropolitan Police saying he is certain it is British born, I can't agree with him, because we have to wait for the evidence first. TONY JONES: Alright. Can I ask you this, because I understand that for some years, you effectively infiltrated some of the more extreme mosques in London. You say there may be thousands of people who've been indoctrinated, who've gone to Afghanistan and actually learned how to make bombs, etc., etc. How do young men born in Britain become indoctrinated to do something like that? REDA HASSAINE: I mean, the problem here in London, you see some youngsters which can be recruited in schools, in college, in universities, and some others who are just looking for the way of Islam, and when they go to a mosque in which the cleric is completely radical and he want to wage a war against the West, they will promise them a place in paradise, so some people will be very, very happy to go to paradise instead of living 60 or 70 years and they don't know what to do. So it is very, very easy to recruit some people. For example - I will give you just my own example - if I wasn't aware about it because I left my country in 1994, and when I left my country these terrorists started to kill us - I mean, we are not Christian but we are Muslim, too, and they believe that they are more Muslim than us. That is the biggest mistake they are doing. So now, the West, because it's aware that it is not Algerian problem or another problem because they started to wage attack in America, it's very, very difficult for them to understand the way, and to fight this kind it of terror is not about fighting them with weapons or something like that, because they are using an ideology, these kind of people, and the ideology have to be fought - you need to have a fight with another ideology. TONY JONES: Sheikh Omran, let me ask you this: do you know of young men in Australia who are so angry with what they perceive to be injustice in this world that they would be prepared to give up their own lives to join a jihad against the West? MOHAMMED OMRAN: First, in addition of what Hassaine said, I would say to live or die, this is not in your hand, anyhow, to live 60 years or to live one day. The Muslim and anyone else knows that this is something not in their control. So to go to learn about, let's say, jihad, as he said, doesn't mean you have become a radical and you have become a person to come back home and destroy your country or something like that. I absolutely abuse this opinion 100 per cent. Again, here in Australia, we have - in every country and in every community, we have people, they are radical in their views, but doesn't mean they carry their thoughts out in action. As we saw so many kids in the street, they make trouble with drugs, with police, with this, with that. This is what we have to look at. As an Australian in general, all the government in particular, we should look at these problems and study it. As Hassaine said, this is an ideological matter. Cannot be chased by police or something like that. This has to be: sit and learn about it and communicate with the people who have these views and teach them, “This is not the right way to handle your unjust matter if you feel you are dealt with unjust”, but to bring it out to the community and solve it in a proper manner. TONY JONES: Sheikh Omran, could I just interrupt you there, because you seem to be suggesting that part of the responsibility must obviously lie with Islamic clerics such as yourself. Do you believe it is now your responsibility, for example, to convince young Australian Muslims that Osama bin Laden is an evil man and that the philosophy of al-Qaeda is a perversion of Islam? MOHAMMED OMRAN: Look, as I said, the whole community has to cooperate on these matters. Yes, it is part of my business and part of my duties to teach my people how to understand Islam in a proper way and how to understand the outside world, as well as to understand their own society. This cannot be done without the support of the government and the support of the media and the support of my people too. TONY JONES: Can I interrupt you, though, because I asked you a specific question there about Osama bin Laden, and I asked it specifically because you have actually said in the past that Osama bin Laden is a very great man for some of his actions. MOHAMMED OMRAN: This is as I said. When you look at the man from some part of his life, yes, he is. From another part, well, again, what action we are talking about? I dispute any evil action linked to bin Laden. Again, I don't believe that even September 11 - from the beginning, I don't believe that it has done by any Muslim at all, or any other activities. London, as I said just a few seconds ago, never done yet - no-one proven that any Muslim has a hand in it. But ... TONY JONES: But given the overwhelming body of evidence suggesting - not suggesting, in fact, proving that Osama bin Laden was responsible for September 11, are you saying that you tell young Muslims in your care that this never happened? MOHAMMED OMRAN: I don't say it never happened. I would say... TONY JONES: That he wasn't responsible, that al-Qaeda wasn't responsible? MOHAMMED OMRAN: This has happened in evil hands for an evil action, and first target was the Muslims for that. How could I believe any Muslim could think to hurt his own religion by doing an evil act like this? This is why, from this perspective, I believe all these evil actions, which bring nothing but harm to the Muslims in particular and people who support Muslims, support their communities in general, like the Londonese people, who went out and marched in millions to support our cause in Palestine and in Iraq and all these - and we go back to pay them by bombing them? It's impossible to happen by a Muslim who has a Muslim heart at least. Maybe these people... TONY JONES: Sheikh Omran, we're nearly out of time. I'm going to go back to Reda Hassaine, and I just want to get your response to what you've just heard there and also your impression about where this could go, because I know you actually spent a good deal of your life infiltrated into mosques, finding out the mindset of Islamic clerics who do tell their pupils to go and fight jihad. REDA HASSAINE: To be honest, for me, I don't know personally Osama bin Laden or something - I don't, because he is far away from my own land. But for me there is another Osama bin Laden here in London. He is known as Abu Qatada. He is the one who can create, who can recruit and brainwash people to do what he call jihad. He used to say to people that paradise is held swords, and to get into it, you have to use one of the swords. That means you have to kill. And you have to remember that Abu Qatada, before he joined al-Qaeda, he used to be the spiritual leader of the GIA and then the GSBC, Algerian. He made Fatwah for them to allow them to kill women, to kill kids, to kill old people, to kill journalists and all this kind of stuff. This guy, for me, he is a murderer, and he should be put on trial. We are looking for him. If you have to be extradited to another country in which it is a Muslim country and then you will see which kind of person he is, because he teach only hate. TONY JONES: I just have to let Sheikh Omran respond to that, if I can, because I know that Abu Qatada is in fact a friend of yours. MOHAMMED OMRAN: (Laughs). Ahh...yes, he is, or he was. I never heard him doing or saying something like that. In fact, in general, and in Australia in particular, they have this understanding, and their Fatwah - even before this - yes, you mentioned they made this Fatwah, but it is a connected matter, in our constitution, that something like that is not allowed in our land. There is a big difference between talking about jihad and talking about swords. Of course, every country has its military army and actions, and people learn how to use the sword or to use the gun. So there is no harm in talking about that, but the harm is how to use that and where to use it and when to use it. But we don't say it's harm to talk about military. Just a few minutes ago, you been talking to the opposition secretary of... TONY JONES: Defence. MOHAMMED OMRAN: Defence or something, and you talk about military and John Howard going to send troops here, and this is what we are talking about here. We are talking about the sword and what the sword has to be used for. It's not a horrible thing to talk about it. Is the horrible how to use it and when to use it and for whom to use it. This is what the terribleness about it. TONY JONES: On that intriguing note we'll have to leave you. I'm afraid we are out of time. Sheikh Mohammed Omran in Melbourne and Reda Hassaine in London, thanks to both of you for joining us. MOHAMMED OMRAN: You're most welcome. REDA HASSAINE: You're welcome.
Hamza probe leads to bomb manual
By Daniel Sandford BBC Home Affairs Correspondent
He has always claimed it was a landmine accident in Afghanistan. “A mine exploded when I stuck a pole in the ground to mark the edge of what I thought was a safe path,'' he said back in 1998. Hamza 's claims over his accident are under scrutiny But a legal contact told me that an infamous jihadi explosives manual said something rather different. It is a document that has already been used in evidence in several terrorism court cases. So the search began for a copy of the manual, which I am not naming because it can be easy to find on the internet. It appears for a while before the authorities remove it. It then appears on a new site a few days later. After two weeks of scouring the web, I tracked it down. It has a comic appearance. There is a cartoon bomb on the first page, but the contents are much less amusing.
Professionally produced and written in English, it is based on a course that used to be led in Afghanistan in the 1990s by Abu Khabaab, an al-Qaeda explosives trainer. Sidney Alford, an explosives expert who examined the document for the BBC, told me it is full of scientific inaccuracies and mistakes. But he said that some of the formulae would definitely work, of which more later. Reda Hassaine, a one-time agent for British intelligence, said this kind of online training is now very common among men who want to be terrorists. “If you do not have a member of your group who went to Afghanistan or Pakistan, or maybe now Iraq, to do the training, you have to rely on the book. If you have got the desire to do some carnage, some killings, the book is very, very useful for you,” he said.
In the manual's introduction the author says: “You can be confident that all the explosive mixtures have been tested and do actually work very adequately. After finishing the course, I moved onto another unit for different training, where I met the original developer of this course. “He informed me that it was several years old, completely out of date and I needed to be updated, which I have been in the process of ever since.” On page 58, I found the answer to the Abu Hamza question. In a section called “Special mixtures” there are instructions on how to make an acid-based explosive, which again I will not name. At the end of the recipe the author writes: “This liquid is very dangerous. It will explode with a detonator. It exploded in the hands of Abu Hamza causing him to lose both of his hands. Nobody tries this one anymore as it is too powerful and dangerous.” Explosive test We asked Sidney Alford to make a version of this explosive under safe conditions. An internationally-renowned expert, he was impressed by how powerful the explosive was. It blew a large hole in a steel plate. “If it had been in your hands, your hands would disappear and probably shatter the tissue in your forearms. You may well be killed and it would not be good for your eyesight.” We cannot be certain that this is what happened to Hamza but a man who attended the training camps in Afghanistan has confirmed to the BBC that he was also told by a course leader that the cleric lost his hands making explosives. He says that when he told Abu Hamza that he knew the truth, the hook-handed radical preacher told him never to repeat the story