Telegraph : Terror plot: Neighbours surprise that 'such nice ordinary lads' had been arrested

Friday, April 10, 2009

Terror plot: Neighbours surprise that 'such nice ordinary lads' had been arrested

By Nigel Bunyan, Paul Stokes, Nick Britten and Caroline Gammell | April 10, 2009

The suspects in the alleged terrorism plot include two security guards, an English language and three accountancy students.

Of the dozen men detained, eleven of them are Pakistani and arrived in the UK on student visas at different times in the past six months.

Some of the suspects, whose ages range from their late teens to 41, were said to speak fluent Pashto, the language of the Pashtun people of Afghanistan, and another had alleged links to Yemen.

Pakistani intelligence sources said that one of the men held had confirmed links to the Waziristan area of Pakistan, a Taliban stronghold on the frontier with Afghanistan.

As often seen with massive police raids, local residents were shocked at the implication that there were terrorism suspects in their midst on the terraced streets of Manchester, Liverpool and Clitheroe, Lancs.

The Daily Telegraph can disclose the names of six of those held.

:: Sultan Sher was arrested at a cyber net café in the Cheetham Hill area of Manchester, alongside a man called Tariq.

:: Abdul Khan, 26, an English language student was arrested in Liverpool, where a student known as Adil was also detained.

:: Abid Nazeer, 22, the alleged ring-leader of the group, who was born in Pakistan and lived with two others arrested in Cheetham Hill, including Hamza Shinwari.

Neighbours said the men moved in around September last year, during the festival of Ramadan.

Bushra Majid 33, said she had heard the two men speaking on mobile telephones in Pashtun dialect used by Afghans.

She also described the men as having the appearance of Afghans, with darker colouring and longer beards than most Pakistanis.

Mrs Majid, a housewife with four children, said that they worshipped at the nearby Al-Falah mosque every day.

“They were very nice neighbours, they were very religious to the extent that, out of respect, they would not look me in the eye,” she said.

Two suspects were arrested at the Clitheroe branch of Homebase, where they worked as security guards, having checked into a local guest eight days ago (April 2).

The pair, both Pakistanis, paid £30-a-night for rooms at the Brooklyn Guest House. Each morning they walked the quarter of a mile to Homebase where there job was to sign staff in and out as they stocked shelves in readiness for the store’s official opening yesterday.

“They both just seemed like nice, ordinary lads in their late twenties,” said a Homebase source. “One spoke relatively good English, the other not too well. I was amazed to hear they’d been arrested.”

All dozen suspects appeared to have kept a low profile in the areas they lived. Neighbours and landlords said they knew very little of them and had contact with them only on an occasional basis for mundane reasons, such as when they needed a faulty washing machine to be fixed.

The Pakistani accountancy students were at Liverpool John Moores University and had started renting a property three weeks ago. They paid cash up front for six months.

Businessman Ali Shalash, whose rented the flat to them spoke of his surprise.

“They spoke good English and just said they were students. I think they said they were doing accounting.

“I have been in the flat many times in the last few weeks to do things like fix the washing machine.

LMK: “There was nothing about them that was suspicious in any way. They are very nice people, gentle and polite. Let’s see what happens. “Maybe it’s a mistake.”

Safwa Mohamed, 26, who is studying nursing at John Moores University and lives in Wavertree, Liverpool, where three men were arrested, said she used to travel on the same bus as the men into college.

“They would stay as a group and they would wander around together – they were pretty quiet,” she said. “They would get the 86 into town and then walk to the university. I used to see them walking on the road.”

One neighbour of the group said: “Loads of men live there, they are all Yemeni and I used to talk to them because my husband is also from Yemen. I was very shocked when I heard they had been raided by terror police.”

Three other students were arrested in Cheetham Hill and are believed to be at Manchester University.

At a property raided Manchester police sealed off a grey MG Rover ZR, which contained on the driver’s seat a copy of the English-speaking newspaper from Pakistan called “The News”. The headline read: “Taliban blamed for sectarian suicide attack on Mosque”.

On the vehicle dashboard in front of the gearstick, there was a small paper cut-out of a foreign military figure holding a machine gun.