Month: March 2015

Haroon Aswat pleads guilty to US terror charges

Haroon Aswat
Haroon Aswat was arrested in 2005 following a request from US authorities

British terror suspect Haroon Aswat has pleaded guilty in New York to charges of plotting to set up a terrorist training camp in Oregon.

Mr Aswat from Batley, West Yorkshire, is accused of conspiring with radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri to establish a camp 15 years ago.

Thought to be aged 45, paranoid schizophrenic Mr Aswat was extradited to the US last year to stand trial.

He faces up to 20 years in prison and will be sentenced on 31 July.

Mr Aswat was arrested in the UK in 2005 at the request of authorities in the US.

In 2008, he was transferred from prison to Broadmoor psychiatric hospital with paranoid schizophrenia.

He fought extradition for several years, with the European Court of Human Rights ruling in September 2013 that he could not be extradited as his mental health could deteriorate.

However, in September 2014 two High Court judges said they were satisfied he would receive satisfactory care in the US.

He lost his final legal battle when in January 2015, the European Court of Human Rights dismissed a case he brought against the government arguing his extradition rested on inadequate assurances from US officials about his treatment.

Abu Hamza was extradited from Britain to the US in 2012 and found guilty of multiple terrorism charges in May 2014.

He was sentenced to life in prison in January.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-32124991

Now jihadi bride school is centre of terror probe: Academy where four pupils have left to join ISIS to be investigated by counter-extremism officials

Amira Abase, 15, and three other pupils at one school in east London fled to join ISIS

The school where four pupils fled to Syria to become ‘jihadi brides’ is to be investigated by counter-extremism officials.

The probe at Bethnal Green Academy has been launched after four girls left their homes to join Islamic State.

Fears of a wider problem of fanaticism at the school in East London have emerged when four of their friends and fellow pupils had their passports confiscated before they could make the same journey.

One of these, a 15-year-old girl who cannot be named for legal reasons, was stopped as her British Airways flight to Istanbul taxied for take-off.

The Department for Education said officers from its ‘due diligence and counter-extremism division’ will investigate potential links to extremism.

The academy, rated as ‘outstanding’ in its 2012 Ofsted review, is currently putting on weekly talks for parents giving advice on the issue.

But parents fear this is merely ‘papering over the cracks’ and have called for a thorough investigation. Parents have also started holding their own meetings to discuss the growing problem of Islamic fundamentalism at the school.

Some have been producing and distributing leaflets which give advice on spotting the signs of radicalism.

Nazrul Islam, whose 13-year-old son attends the school, said: ‘Lots of parents around here who have children that go to Bethnal Green Academy are all very concerned.

‘After what happened with the girls leaving, parents are worried that their children might be radicalised too – but they don’t know how to stop it.

‘We have been left in a horrible situation and now parents are worried they don’t know what their children are doing. The police told the school that they were concerned about the girls. Did the school then contact the parents? What did they know and what did they do about it? We need to get to the bottom of it.’

Davis Lewin, deputy director at the Henry Jackson Society think-tank, said: ‘It is vital that the authorities investigate the situation at the school. Parents and the public deserve answers. If there is a problem in Bethnal Green Academy, it must be addressed urgently. If not, we must know where these children are being indoctrinated with this hateful ideological poison.’

The probe at Bethnal Green Academy has been launched after four girls left their homes to join Islamic State.

Classmates Kadiza Sultana, 16, Shamima Begum, 15, and Amira Abase, 15, fled to Syria last month

Last week a judge banned five girls – three of whom are 16 and two 15 – from travelling abroad after they showed an interest in going to Syria. He ordered their passports to be confiscated and for them to be made wards of the court. Four of the girls, from Bethnal Green Academy, are associated with the four girls who have already joined IS to become ‘jihadi brides’. The fifth is schooled at home.

Concerns for their welfare were raised by police after classmates Kadiza Sultana, 16, Shamima Begum, 15, and Amira Abase, 15, fled to Syria last month. The trio followed in the footsteps of 15-year-old Sharmeena Begum, also from Bethnal Green Academy, who left for Syria in December.

it emerged last night that Amira’s (pictured) father Abase Hussen has not been seen by neighbours for a month

Meanwhile, it emerged last night that Amira’s father Abase Hussen – whose close links to extremism were exposed by the Mail – has not been seen by neighbours for a month.

One neighbour said: ‘I haven’t see him for a long time now – maybe a month. I haven’t seen any of the family. He isn’t at work because he doesn’t work. He has an injury so he can’t work.’

A second neighbour added: ‘I used to see him in the mosque before his daughter went to Syria, but after that I haven’t seen him anymore. He used to take his children to the mosque. He was very religious.’

Mr Hussen, who told MPs that police were to blame for his daughter fleeing to join IS, played a central role in a notorious protest at the US embassy in London.

Video footage shows him shouting ‘burn, burn USA’ and standing next to an American flag that has just been set on fire. The 47-year-old marched alongside extremists carrying jihadi flags and placards bearing incendiary anti-Western messages.

Many of Britain’s most radical Muslims were at the rally in September 2012, including hate preacher Anjem Choudary and Michael Adebowale, one of Fusilier Lee Rigby’s killers.

A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘Our understanding of the challenge [of extremism], and the way we monitor the ability of schools to respond to it, has advanced hugely. As part of this, this government set up a dedicated due diligence and counter-extremism division within the Department and they are working tirelessly to see if and where we can offer help to schools with pupils or former pupils who have since travelled to Syria or other areas of concern.

‘The Secretary of State has asked them to review those schools where we have evidence of links with pupils who have travelled to Syria.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3017345/Now-jihadi-bride-school-centre-terror-probe-Academy-four-pupils-left-join-ISIS-investigated-counter-extremism-officials.html#ixzz3VpWDj0xx

The truth behind the RAF mission to smash ISIS: More than 100 airstrikes, 180 targets destroyed and £37million spent

The RAF has spent £37million on bombing raids in its mission to smash ISIS and bring Jihadi John’s network to its knees.

An investigation by MailOnline has unveiled the grand scale of the military effort against the terrorist group, including more than 100 airstrikes and 195 missiles fired.

The bombings, carried out by Britain’s fleet of warplanes and unmanned drones, have targeted more than 180 ISIS positions and have killed dozens of Islamists so far in the six-month campaign.

The bombings, carried out by Britain’s fleet of warplanes and unmanned drones, have targeted more than 180 ISIS positions (above), with some hit multiple times

The bombings, carried out by Britain’s fleet of warplanes and unmanned drones, have targeted more than 180 ISIS positions (above), with some hit multiple times

 The RAF has spent £37million on bombing raids in its mission to smash ISIS, fronted by Jihadi John (pictured), unveiled as Londoner Mohammed Emwazi

RAF strike on ISIL vehicle

The raids, under the code name Operation Shader, have covered swathes of Iraq, with the RAF picking off terrorist targets deep inside ISIS territory.

Britain has used Tornado GR4s at least 126 times in attacks on the militants, with each one flown from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus at an estimated cost of £35,000 an hour.

With an average flight time of somewhere between four and eight hours – thanks to the help of Voyager air-to-air refuelling tankers accompanying them on each mission – the total cost quickly racks up to around £26.5million.

Tornados are usually flown in pairs and are equipped with both Brimstone and Paveway IV missiles.

Brimstones – ‘smart bombs’ which can pinpoint small targets in crowded areas – have been fired at least 54 times on trucks, buildings and groups of ISIS terrorists.

The missiles cost £105,000 each and account for another £5.67million spent hunting down members of the barbaric group.

RAF Tornado destroys ISIL armoured personnel carrier

Britain has used Tornado GR4s at least 126 times in attacks on the militants, with each raid flown from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus in pairs (file picture)

Britain has used Tornado GR4s at least 126 times in attacks on the militants, with each raid flown from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus in pairs (file picture)

Weapons: At least 66 500lb Paveways have been dropped on ISIS in Iraq by the eight RAF Tornados in Iraq

Weapons: At least 66 500lb Paveways have been dropped on ISIS in Iraq by the eight RAF Tornados in Iraq

Strike: The targeted bombings have killed dozens of Islamists so far in the six-month campaign

Strike: The targeted bombings have killed dozens of Islamists so far in the six-month campaign

RAF Tornado strike against an ISIL vehicle

Meanwhile at least 66 500lb Paveways have been dropped on ISIS in Iraq by the eight Tornados the RAF has sent to the region. The heavier weapons are used on larger targets and cost £22,000 each.

Because of the threat posed by Tornados to the Islamists, they have taken to travelling at night or in poor weather to avoid being seen.

But this does not stop Britain’s fleet of 10 unmanned Reaper drones, which can locate and fire on small targets from as high as 45,000ft, from picking off ISIS convoys trying to take advantage of poor visibility.

Reapers, which can fly for up to 30 hours before needing to refuel, have fired on the extremists 75 times during the RAF mission, which started in October last year.

THE RAF BOMBS DROPPED ON ISIS

During 101 airstrikes on ISIS in Iraq, the RAF has fired:

75 Hellfire missiles 

66 Paveway IV laser-guided bombs

54 Brimstone missiles 

The drones use aptly-named Hellfire missiles, which can incinerate targets in a burst of flames before they are even aware they are being fired upon and cost £46,000 a unit.

The full £37million fight against ISIS does not include the costs of flying the drones, which are each worth around £8.5million, as their operation is shrouded in secrecy.

The Ministry of Defence does not reveal where the drones take off and land, or even where they are ‘piloted’ from – however previous reports suggest they take off from Kuwait and are piloted remotely 4,600 miles away in Lincolnshire.

In all, the 101 missions MailOnline are aware of have destroyed 186 ISIS targets, which includes command points, checkpoints and military convoys.

According to a YouGov poll, more than 60 per cent of the British public approve of the bombings in Iraq.

This is a 10 per cent rise from in September, showing the continued released of brutal snuff videos by the terrorists, such as the sickening beheadings by Jihadi John, unveiled last month as Londoner Mohammed Emwazi, have only caused the public to further back the UK mission.

Critics have called for the RAF mission to be stepped up, despite David Cameron insisting that Britain’s role in Iraq is second only to that of the U.S..

Aerial attack: Reapers, which can fly for up to 30 hours before needing to refuel, have fired on the extremists 75 times during the RAF mission

Aerial attack: Reapers, which can fly for up to 30 hours before needing to refuel, have fired on the extremists 75 times during the RAF mission

RAF Strike on ISIL 18 February

The Commons Defence Committee said the RAF’s role in Iraq was ‘surprisingly modest’ and that the air force was only carrying out one strike a day.

Dr Afzal Ashraf, from the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies, said the RAF could only play a limited part in the fight against ISIS without the help of boots on the ground.

He said: ‘The RAF plays has a small part of the total campaign against ISIS.

‘They’ve done a good job but the problem with airpower is the target they face. Targets have to be fixed unless aircraft react fast to moving targets. This is particularly an issue with the predominant use of fast jets rather than close air support aircraft.’

‘ISIS have learnt to adapt to the attacks. They very rarely move in broad daylight – they do so in bad weather and in small numbers. This makes it hard for the RAF to find valuable targets.

‘The RAF has done as much as it can because of airpower’s limited and perishable impact. Unless you have ground troops to exploit the impact airpower has, it can’t be sustained.’

Britain has also provided 40 heavy machine guns to the Kurds, who are fighting against ISIS in Iraq, but this pales in significance when compared to Germany, which has sent more than 35,000 weapons to the fighters.

UK forces have provided training to Peshmerga fighters, as well as sending around 400 support personnel to northern Iraq.

While the MoD does not comment on ongoing operations, its latest update on the strikes on ISIS says: ‘Military support is just one part of the UK government’s contribution to the global coalition strategy to defeat ISIL – we are also taking action to counter the terrorist network’s finances, are restricting the flow of foreign fighters and have provided vital humanitarian relief to help those affected by ISIL’s brutality.

‘British military training teams continue to teach infantry and first aid skills to the Kurdish peshmerga, and liaison teams are embedded within Iraqi and coalition headquarters.

‘Having previously provided military equipment to the Iraqi forces, Britain plans to gift improvised explosive device (IED) detectors to help the Iraqi and Kurdish soldiers protect themselves against the numerous improvised explosive devices on which ISIL are increasingly relying as they are forced back by successful offensives.

‘In the Gulf, the Royal Navy’s Type 45 destroyer HMS Dauntless is operating in direct support of the US Navy’s aircraft carrier, USS Carl Vinson, which provides a significant part of the coalition’s air effort.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2982646/The-truth-RAF-mission-smash-ISIS-100-airstrikes-180-targets-destroyed-37million-spent.html#ixzz3Vn75WMx5

Lee Rigby memorial goes on display in Middleton

Lee Rigby's widow at his memorial
Lee Rigby’s widow Rebecca laid flowers at the memorial along with their four-year-old son, Jack

A memorial to murdered soldier Lee Rigby has been unveiled in his home town in Greater Manchester.

The 25-year-old fusilier was killed outside Woolwich Barracks in London on 22 May 2013 by Islamist extremists.

His four-year-old son, Jack, was among those at the private ceremony in Middleton Memorial Gardens earlier.

He laid a floral tribute with his mother Rebecca. Its message read: “Me and Mummy Miss and Love You lots and lots. Jack xxx.”

Also attending the dedication service for the bronze drum and plaque were Lee Rigby’s mother Lyn, step father Ian and father Philip McClure.

The memorial symbolises the service of the drummer and machine gunner who served with the 2nd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.

Col Mike Glover, regimental secretary of the Lancashire Fusiliers, told the ceremony the soldier’s death sent “shockwaves through the country.”

“The afternoon of May 22 2013 Fusilier Lee Rigby… paid the ultimate sacrifice when the horror of the battlefield was brought to the streets of Woolwich,” he said.

“That day will forever be embedded in our nation’s history and for many here today it will remain forever in our hearts.

‘Living memory’

Lee Rigby
Lee Rigby was murdered

Other service personnel from the borough who lose their lives will also be honoured with a memorial wall in the gardens.

Councillor Peter Williams, deputy leader of Rochdale Council, said: “It is very important that we honour him in a respectful way. We’re very proud of him.”

Welcoming the memorial, Fusilier Rigby’s mother, Lyn, said: “It will be a lovely tribute to Lee who put his life on the line every day to serve his country.”

His father, Philip McClure, added: “I am still coming to terms with what happened. Lee will never be forgotten and this memorial is keeping his memory alive in his hometown.”

In October, Greenwich Council revealed a stone memorial would be placed in St George’s Chapel garden, opposite Woolwich Barracks.

Lee Rigby memorial
The memorial went on public view at 14:30 BST, following the private service for family and friends

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-32101785

Lee Rigby memorial: Bronze drum and plaque to be unveiled in Middleton today in honour of Fusilier

The memorial will be opened to the public in Middleton Gardens at 2.30pm

Fusilier Lee Rigby

A memorial to murdered soldier Lee Rigby will be unveiled in Middleton today.

A bronze drum, alongside a plaque in memory of the 25-year-old, will take pride of place at Middleton Memorial Gardens in the town centre, together with a memorial wall.

The memorial will be unveiled in a private ceremony before it is opened to the public at around 2.30pm. Langley-born Fusilier Rigby’s family are expected to attend the service and unveiling.

Fusilier Rigby – a drummer with the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers – was murdered outside his barracks in Woolwich, south-east London, in May 2013 by Islamic extremists Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale as he returned from the Tower of London.

Fusilier Lee Rigby

Welcoming the memorial, his mother Lyn said: “It will be a lovely tribute to Lee who put his life on the line every day to serve his country.

“Over time the memorial will remember not just our Lee but other soldiers whose bravery will also never be forgotten.”

His father, Philip McClure, added: “I am still coming to terms with what happened. Lee will never be forgotten and this memorial is keeping his memory alive in his hometown.

“He enjoyed many good times growing up in Middleton and this will be a place for people to come along and pay their respects in a way they’ve not previously been able to.”

Fusilier Rigby’s wife, Rebecca, added: “I am pleased this memorial is being unveiled in Middleton.

“It should be seen as a celebration of his life because that is what he would have wanted. People will be able to come here in peace, remember Lee and reflect.”

Councillor June West, chairman of Middleton Township, said the Middleton community ‘came together’ after the tragedy.

She said: “I thank our residents for their support and I am pleased that Fusilier Lee Rigby and other service personnel will be forever remembered in this way.

“Lee’s family were keen to ensure it also included a permanent reminder of those who have served and lost their lives in conflict.”

http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/memorial-murdered-soldier-lee-rigby-8941331

British Muslim girls and extremism: what I learned on my journey across the UK – Sara Khan

Across eight cities in very diverse communities, I try to find out why those opposing radicalism struggle to find a voice
There is no uniform Muslim community in the UK.

On Friday, we learned that five east London girls, all from Bethnal Green academy – the school attended by the three girls who left home to join Islamic State in February – have been made wards of court, to stop them travelling to Syria. The news broke as I came to the end of four weeks visiting eight cities across the UK as part of Inspire’s Making a Stand roadshow.

Our purpose was to mobilise women to challenge extremism. (And to gain personal, specific commitment: “I will be #makingastand by confronting the men who are promoting extreme views at the Islam stall in the town centre,” said one contributor.) But for me it was a huge learning experience.

The first thing that needs to be emphasised, and which you note, as you move from Bristol to Birmingham, from Cardiff to Luton, is that there is, of course, no uniform Muslim community.

Raising teenage children is hard enough, but different first languages can widen this inter-generational divide
I met British Muslim women from Sunni, Shia, and Ahmadiyya denominations; women from Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Somali, Arab, English, Welsh and Kurdish backgrounds. Young women, mothers and grandmothers. So diversity and complexity of views should always be reckoned with. However, three common themes began to emerge: barriers within families, barriers within communities and a lack of engagement with “outside” agencies that could help.

Within families, the barriers start with language. This was evident when group facilitators were needed to translate some of our workshops from English to Arabic, Urdu and Punjabi. Raising teenage children is hard enough, but different first languages can widen this inter-generational divide as a mother and daughter struggle to make sense to each other. Cultural, religious and gender expectations of parents also often differ to those of their children’s.

When children ask searching questions about extremism and religion, parents often close down the debate because they can’t answer theological questions. The lack of religious knowledge among families was recognised as a weakness.

Inevitably, some of these children go online to find their answers – and extremist websites are there awaiting their curiosity. Many teenagers feel their parents are not credible authorities; mothers, for their part, told us they were unaware of what educational resources existed to challenge extremist ideology.

Wider concerns were also expressed about the cultural gap that separates parents from their children. There is an identity crisis of the 9/11 generation, children who have grown up under a spotlight of suspicion, affecting their sense of belonging.

Thirtysomething YouTube sensations don religious clothing but have few qualifications to speak about Islamic law
This then leaves the mosques to fill a gap. While the work of some mosques was endorsed, and there was a general sense that radicalisation was not taking place across British mosques en masse, many women felt that some mosques were ill-equipped to teach counter-narratives with any confidence. One mother explained how, at a meeting between members of a local Muslim community and her mosque, parents asked the mosque what they were doing to counter the Isis narrative. The mosque replied that this was not their responsibility – it should be down to the parents.

Another woman described, how when she attended a madrasa in the 1980s, she was raised on what she described as a peaceful and tolerant interpretation of Islam; an understanding of Islam that embraced British society rather than rejecting it. It was this theological understanding that she believed made her resilient to the Islamist narrative of organisations such as Hizb ul-Tahrir during her time at university in the 1990s.

Others echoed good examples of madrasas in their areas, but there was widespread awareness of others that promoted a narrow and intolerant understanding of Islam. Some women wished for more “self-regulation”, but were pessimistic about this happening, believing instead that state regulation may be necessary.

One reason for this pessimism is a void in strong credible Muslim leadership – among both civil leaders and theologians. In recent years we have become too familiar with preachers who promote extremist views while pretending to be speaking on behalf of “normative” Islam.

Thirtysomething YouTube sensations don religious clothing but have few qualifications or authority to speak about Islamic law. However, with their pop star status, they dispense advice to thousands on social media. There has been some pushback however. Last week a group of imams and scholars met in London to announce the publication of an online magazine, Haqiqah (imamsonline.com), which would counter Isis’s online magazine.

Another key barrier, identified by women in particular and not often appreciated, is fear. Fear of challenging extremists and the possible repercussions. Having witnessed the insults other Muslim women have been subjected to in challenging extremism, many feared mudslinging, intimidation and abuse.

This is often instigated by men in an attempt to silence women’s voices. I saw this first hand when attempts were made to scupper the workshops we were organising by publicly smearing me and other women who simply wanted to safeguard their children. These women know that challenging extremism also means standing up to patriarchy and traditional gender roles that have stifled the contribution of women in both home and public life.

What’s more, not all women felt confident to engage with police and other agencies, not seeing them as there to help. Partly this was because of a lack of trust; partly a lack of engagement and dialogue.

Challenging extremism means standing up to traditional gender roles that have stifled the contribution of women
The experience of the roadshow has reaffirmed that the factors that lead to extremism are numerous, complex and multilayered. Focusing on the academic achievements of A-grade schoolgirls who join Isis fails to look at the wider picture. Religious illiteracy, exposure to extremist influences and the lack of strong credible religious leadership all play a part. But so does a limited life experience and a search for a sense of belonging. Weak familial relationships, where the emotional, language and cultural gap between parent and child presents a vulnerability, are often exploited by extremists.

Our campaign, I hope, will inspire women to take the lead. “I will be #makingastand because I want to make this world a safer place for my children to grow up,” one woman promised. Empower women to counter extremism and it is they who will take on this battle. But this is not a “community” challenge. We need to help as a country; we need to support these women.

Sara Khan is co-director of Inspire, a counter-extremism and human rights organisation (wewillinspire.com)

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/29/british-muslim-communities-women-face-challenge-extremism

Peterborough letting agent denies sexual activity with girls

Mohammed Khubaib

Mohammed Khubaib

A Peterborough businessman accused of grooming young girls for sex told a court he is just a ‘normal person’ who never had anything wrong in his mind.

Mohammed Khubaib, (43), who ran Peterborough restaurants Zaika and Asian Fusion, denies organising drinking parties where teenagers were plied with booze.

The Old Bailey heard he was found three times in the space of just one week by police in the company of girls and other older men when alcohol was present.

The letting agent was arrested on Sunday 27 January 2013 when he was found in a bedroom with two 14-year-old girls, his co-defendant Manese Motaung, and a friend.

But ‘happily married’ Khubaib said he had been just about to leave the small terraced house when police came through the door.

‘My friends asked me for a lift, I gave them lift. I’m a normal person,’ the father-of-five told jurors.

‘I don’t have anything myself, anything bad. I don’t think about anything wrong because I’m a normal person.’

It is alleged Khubaib enticed girls to spend time with him with gifts of McDonald’s meals, cash, tobacco and flowers.

Khubaib is said to have driven them to properties around Peterborough where they were plied with drink and used for the sexual pleasure of him and his friends.

Prosecutor Mark Dennis QC asked him: ‘Have you ever arranged a drinking session in a house with any of these nine girls?

‘Have you ever arranged a drinking session with any other girls under 16 or over?’

Khubaib, who does not drink himself, insisted: ‘I never arranged the drinking parties.’

He also denied ever having provided alcohol to the girls to drink in his presence.

Mr Dennis said: ‘Have you ever made any improper suggestion or made any advance on any of these nine girls?’

‘No’ was Khubaib’s simple reply.

The prosecutor continued: ‘Have you ever done any sexual act or encouraged any sexual activity with any of these nine girls?’

‘No,’ the defendant repeated.

Khubaib, of Cambridge Avenue, Peterborough, denies nine counts of trafficking a child for sexual exploitation and one of raping a 14-year-old girl.

Motaung, (32), of Grange Road, Peterborough, denies five counts of trafficking a child for sexual exploitation and one of raping a 16-year-old girl.

The pair have each been acquitted of two trafficking charges on the instruction of Judge Peter Rook QC.

The friend who was found in the bedroom with the pair faces no charges.

The trial continues.