A notorious Saudi cleric preached at a mosque accused of radicalising three young Britons fighting in Syria.
Mohammed al-Arifi, who has called for holy war to overthrow holy war ’s regime, spoke at Cardiff’s Al Manar centre.
The trio – two brothers and a friend – attended the mosque before leaving their homes to join the civil war.
Although banned from entering Switzerland because of his extremist views, al-Arifi has visited the UK several times. A Sunni Muslim, he has been accused of stirring up tensions with the rival Shia sect, reportedly calling it evil and accusing adherents of kidnapping, cooking and skinning children.
In other developments in the terror crisis:
- A recruitment video for Al Qaeda-linked group ISIS featuring the three Britons remained on YouTube last night;
- An Australian jihadist who appeared in the film, named as Zakaryah Raad, was said to have been killed fighting afterward;
- The Petrol Retailers Association warned fuel prices could rise by 4p a litre because of the crisis;
- Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism chief said Britain would have to deal with home-grown fighters returning from Syria for many years
- Coventry sixth-former Mohammed Hadi, 18, became one of the youngest Britons fighting with ISIS to be identified so far.
Cardiff school friends Nasser Muthana, and Reyaad Khan, both 20, last week appeared in the recruitment video for ISIS with a friend.
Khan, who once dreamed of becoming Britain’s first Asian prime minister, was a successful student before he was radicalised.
Muthana, who gave up four offers of places at medical school to become a jihadist, later persuaded his younger brother Aseel, 17, to join him in Syria.
Their father, Yemen-born Ahmed Muthana, 57, says his sons were ‘brainwashed’ after they began attending Al Manar. He said none of the elders at the mosque were dangerous but visiting clerics may have put ideas in the heads of his boys.
A source close to the Yemeni community in Cardiff said: ‘These boys were groomed (at Al Manar) – obviously not to the stage to go, but so that they are satisfied that what they go to do is right. It all comes from the same school of thought. Fight the Shias, fight these people, fight those – that’s where it started.
‘The teaching [at Al Manar] helped the people recruiting. If someone tried to recruit me, I wouldn’t go unless I’m convinced. But once they’re groomed, all it takes is someone to say come and I’ll take you.’
It is understood that children in Cardiff’s Muslim community have been receiving messages from Nasser Muthana in Syria via the mobile phone messaging service WhatsApp.
The source said he believed more young boys from the area who had studied at Al Manar may also join the fight. ‘There’s a few boys who I wouldn’t be shocked if they went. The authorities should be doing something about it,’ he said.
Several families in the Yemeni community are understood to have banned their children from attending teachings or prayer at the mosque.
A 20-year-old, who knew the Muthana brothers for many years, said the Al Manar Centre had a good reputation. But he added that he had heard they ‘brought one or two radical preachers in to talk on the sly’.
Al-Arifi spoke at the mosque in June 2012. A video and photograph posted online show excited worshippers flocking around him.
Mosque trustee Barak Albayaty said the internet was being used to brainwash young Muslim men to take up arms with ISIS.
He said: ‘Nasser Muthana was just like any other guy – I was shocked to see him in the video. But I am sure [this mosque] is not the source of radicalism. We’re against going to Syria for the armed struggle and have spelled this out on many occasions.
‘The boys are affected by the internet. It’s not just Cardiff, it’s all over the UK. I’m told the numbers could be in the hundreds all over the UK.’
‘Fight those adjacent to you of the disbelievers and let them find in you harshness.
Your brothers’ hearts are with you, and our money is with you, and our arms, by the will of Allah, are ready and will soon be with you. And our souls are with you.
We ask Allah to honour us as a whole with jihad for His sake. And for Allah to take from our blood until He is pleased and satisfied’
Call to arms by Saudi radical
Elders at the mosque are due to meet this week to discuss the issue.
Mr Muthana is due to make a formal statement to South Wales Police today confirming his son is the young man in the ISIS recruitment video.
He said: ‘I know I may never see my two sons again and I am prepared for that. But my wife is sick at the thought. My sons have betrayed their family and betrayed their country, which is Britain.’ Khan’s mother yesterday made a tearful appeal to her only son to come home. ‘It’s absolutely devastating. We can’t sleep or eat, we’re very ill,’ she told Sky News.
‘Reyaad, please come back home. I’m dying for you. You are my only son. Please come back Reyaad. It’s not good what you are doing.’
Among the new wave of British jihadists are two former sixth-formers from Coventry – like Cardiff, a city not previously linked to Islamic extremists.
Eighteen-year-old Mohammed Hadi is the youngest Briton fighting with ISIS to be identified so far.
The oldest of five children, he had been dubbed Osama bin Bieber by friends on social media because of his childish looks.
A former classmate yesterday said Hadi was ‘brainwashed’ at a madrassa and mosque where he studied Arabic and the Koran. Hadi is understood to have travelled to Syria with at least three youths from the madrassa. His father, Mahir, 38, a factory worker, refused to comment.