Liverpool Echo : Terror suspects in cricket team

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Terror suspects in cricket team

by Kevin Core, Liverpool Echo | April 15, 2009

TWO men arrested in the Mersey terror raids are talented cricketers who played regularly in a local team.

Students Abdul Wahab Khan, 25 and Shoaib Khan, 27, both played for Whitefield Cricket Club, based at Court Hey Park in Roby Road, Huyton.

Club official Shahbaz Ahmed said the team was shocked to hear the pair were seized in raids across the north-west last week.

It is believed they were arrested in the block of flats where they live separately near the Royal Liverpool hospital.

Mr Ahmed said: “They are both really nice lads, really friendly and excellent cricketers.

“No-one can believe what has happened. There is just no way they are terrorists.”

Both men are originally from Pakistan.

Wahab, who is from an area 100 miles outside Islamabad, studied computing and electronics while Shoaib, who is originally from Lahore City, studied engineering. Both are thought to be at Liverpool John Moores University.

It is believed Wahab worked as a security guard to support his studies.

Mr Ahmed said: “They travelled together and I would often pick them up from the ground and take them to away matches.

“I know a few of the other lads would often go to their flat for a meal or something.

“They were very popular members of the team. Everyone is saying that what happened is unbelievable.”

He said he feared both men – who would have paid up to £10,000 for their studies – would be deported even if no charges were brought.

Mr Ahmed said: “They were always broke because they spent all of their money on studying.

“They often struggled to pay match fees and I know Wahab only worked to pay for his studies.

“They are here on legitimate visas and if they get sent home all of their hard work and time spent studying will be wasted.”

He said he never heard either man express an extremist view.

“Shoaib is a practising Muslim – he has the beard and he doesn’t drink alcohol or eat pork.

“Wahab is a Muslim like me – we don’t eat pork but we can both be persuaded into having a glass of beer. It’s not that strict.

“If either of these men were found to be involved in terrorism then I believe they should face the death penalty, I have always believed that.

“But so many people have been arrested in these circumstances in the past few years and hardly anyone has been charged.”

The North West Counter Terrorism Unit has confirmed that although bomb disposal experts had completed their searches of addresses in Liverpool, police searches were continuing.

The addresses were two locations in Cedar Grove, two in Highgate Street and one in Earle Road.

They said 11 men arrested on Wednesday, April 8, remained in custody and an 18-year-old had been released into the custody of the UK Borders Agency.