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'7/7 bombings a good act'

A spiritual leader has said that London attacks forced people to take notice when peaceful meetings had no impact.

india Updated: Feb 12, 2006 19:30 IST
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A leading Imam in the mosque where the July 7 bombers used to worship has hailed their terrorist attack on London as a "good" act.

In a secretly-taped conversation with an undercover reporter of the Sunday Times, Hamid Ali, spiritual leader of the mosque in West Yorkshire, said the bombing in London's transit system that killed 56 people had forced people to take notice when peaceful meetings and conferences had no impact.

He also praised the bombers as "children" of Abdullah al-Faisal, a firebrand Muslim cleric convicted in 2003 of inciting murder and racial hatred.

Al-Faisal, 42, a Jamaican-born convert who toured Britain for almost a decade making inflammatory speeches which were recorded on video and audio and sold to his followers, is serving a seven-year prison sentence but is eligible for early release next week.

Ali, spiritual leader of the Al-Madina Masjid in Tunstall Road, Beeston, revealed the leader of the suicide bombers had attended sermons in Yorkshire by al-Faisal, whose tapes were still circulating within the mosque.

The daily claimed that evidence of continuing extremism and terrorist sympathisers in the bombers' community has been exposed by its six-week probe, adding it contrasted with public statements of condemnation by community leaders -- including Ali -- immediately after the July 7 attacks.

The disclosures come as a 'Sunday Times-YouGov' poll showed that people are gloomy about prospects of peaceful co-existence with Britain's Muslim community.

Nearly two-thirds, 63 per cent, think tensions will rise and only 17 per cent are optimistic about the outlook. By 10 to one, 52 per cent to 5 per cent, people say recent events made them less tolerant of other religions.

How the July 7 bombers came to be radicalised has proved to be one of the biggest mysteries surrounding their involvement, about which even the intelligence services are understood to be in the dark.

In an attempt to shed light on this, an undercover reporter of Bangladeshi origin, posing as a student, lived among the Muslim community in Beeston, Leeds, where three of the bombers -- Mohammad Sidique Khan, Shehzad Tanweer and Hasib Mir Hussain -- had grown up.

In the aftermath of the attacks, besieged by world's media and fearing reprisals from far-right extremists, many people had refused to talk about the bombers. However, Ali was among those willing to condone them.

A week after the attack he had told dailies that the perpetrators ought to be punished. But in a secretly taped conversation, he said: "What they did was good. They have warned that we are here, we Muslims. People have taken notice that we are here. They died so that people would take notice... Big meetings and conferences make no change at all. With this at least people's ears have pricked up."

Describing them as "children" of "Sheikh" al-Faisal and part of his group of followers, the imam disclosed that al-Faisal had visited the Beeston mosque at least thrice to give "lectures".

He said Khan had many of al-Faisal's audio tapes: "He had lots of them. He definitely used to listen to al-Faisal tapes. I borrowed some from him."

Home Secretary Charles Clarke must decide within next two weeks whether to let Al-Faisal free from prison after the judge at his trial recommended that he be deported after his time in jail. His nine-year sentence had already been cut to seven on appeal.