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Letters reveal Aussie's road to bin Laden

world Updated: Feb 28, 2008 12:29 IST

When young Australian David Hicks got an offer from a Saudi friend to go to Osama bin Laden's camps in Afghanistan in December 2000, he did not think twice.

"So many of today's Muslims want to meet bin Laden but cannot, and after only being Muslim for 16 months Allah has given me the chance to," he gushed in a letter to his mother. "Please don't worry."

Within six months, Hicks - who took the name Mohammad Dawood - had met bin Laden at least 20 times and was full of praise for the Al-Qaeda leader.

"Lovely brother, everything only for the sake of Islam," Hicks wrote to his mother in May 2001. "Only reason non-Muslims call him the most wanted terrorist is because he has the money to take action, which was given to him by Allah."

The meetings with bin Laden are mentioned in Hicks' account of his journey from a working-class background in the central Australian city of Adelaide to Islamic jihad, made public for the first time last week.

Hicks was the first person convicted before a US military tribunal at Guantanamo, and is now free in Australia after serving a seven-year sentence for supporting terrorism.

Hicks, who is said to no longer be a practicing Muslim, is barred under a plea deal from speaking publicly. But Federal Magistrate Warren Donald released his letters and a diary in court to back his ruling that Hicks is still a terror threat.

The ruling puts Hicks under restrictions until the end of the year, requiring him to report to police twice a week and live at an approved address.