Liverpool Echo : Liverpool terror arrest: Friend’s plea for arrested suspect

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Liverpool terror arrest: Friend’s plea for arrested suspect

April 14, 2009

A FRIEND of a Liverpool student arrested in raids on suspected terrorists today insisted he is innocent.

The Nigerian student, who only gave his name as Jamil, said Janas Khan, 25, and another student had been caught up in the raids because he had broken the terms of his visa.

It comes following a day of turmoil for city residents evacuated from their homes in Highgate Street, Edge Hill, yesterday after searches led to bomb disposal experts being called in.

No device has been found and police have now concluded their search of the property.

Residents said chemicals were mentioned by officers leading them from their homes which they finally returned to at 8.45pm.

Today Jamil told the ECHO: “We are studying for an international Masters in business management at Liverpool Hope University.

“We attended lectures and there was nothing to suggest in any way that they were terrorists.

“I have known them personally as friends, they will be acquitted.

“They lived together and were looking for a second hand car for their jobs as security guards.”

He said he believed they had been arrested by police because they were unable to find them at the time of checking their visas. Khan was one of several men understood to be staying at a £115,000 flat in Wavertree thought to be owned by Mohammed Benhammedi.

Property tycoon Benhammedi has been identified by the US as a “key financier” for the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, an organisation described as being part of the “wider Al-Qaeda associated movement”.

During his time in the UK, Khan was working for a company that provided security for Liverpool and England footballers. Khan resigned from his job, but signed on with another company to work as a security guard at a new Homebase which opened in Clitheroe last week.

He was among 12 men arrested in the North West, including John Moores University student Mohammad Ramzan, 25 and Abdul Wahab Khan.

After being ordered to evacuate Highgate Street at around 2.30pm residents were allowed to return six hours later.

Mother-of-four Ann-Marie Bennett, 32, said: “I can understand that they don’t want to give a lot of information out but we had children with us and we were not told anything.”

MET : UK wants Pakistan to help arrest dead al-Qaeda terrorist

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

UK wants Pakistan to help arrest dead al-Qaeda terrorist

Amir Mir | April 14, 2009

LAHORE: The British authorities have sought intelligence cooperation from the Pakistani agencies for the arrest and extradition of Rashid Rauf, an alleged al-Qaeda linked British national of Pakistani origin and the in charge of the outfit’s external operations’ branch responsible for attacks in Europe, despite the fact that he is reported to have been killed in an American predator air strike in North Waziristan in November 2008.

According to well informed diplomatic sources in Islamabad, the British demand has been conveyed to the Pakistani authorities through non-diplomatic channels, saying the previous assessment that Rashid Rauf had been killed in a November 2008 predator attack in North Waziristan has now been revised keeping in view credible information which has come to surface recently. The British authorities have told their Pakistan counterparts that a key al-Qaeda operative detained in Belgium recently has claimed that Rashid Rauf had trained him and dispatched him to Brussels to conduct a suicide attack during a meeting of the European leaders.

The al-Qaeda operative has reportedly disclosed that Rashid had plotted terrorist attacks in Belgium, France, Holland and England. While seeking intelligence sharing and cooperation from the Pakistani agencies, the British authorities have reportedly described Rashid as al-Qaeda’s director of operations in Europe. He has been accused of forming multiple cells, comprising 12 terrorists each, which had been dispatched last year from the Pakistani tribal areas to conduct a series of bomb attacks in the major cities of several European countries. The British authorities believe that these terror cells have been acting under the direct orders of Rashid Rauf who had apparently survived unhurt in the November 2008 missile attack.

It was on the basis of this intelligence information that the British authorities had recently arrested 12 people, including 11 Pakistanis on student visas, in raids on Manchester, Liverpool and Lancashire. These students have been detained after protracted surveillance by the British authorities during which their homes were bugged, their telephones calls were intercepted and they were followed day and night by officers from Mi5’s A4 surveillance division. All those arrested are being probed for their alleged involvement in a failed terror plot to bomb several major shopping centres in Manchester over Easter.

Approached for comments, an interior ministry official in Islamabad confirmed that the British authorities want intelligence sharing and other such cooperation from their Pakistani counterparts to get hold of all those who have been involved in a possible terror plot aimed at targeting Britain. However, the official doubted the authenticity of the British intelligence information about Rashid Rauf having escaped the November 2008 missile strike in North Waziristan. When reminded that the al-Qaeda operative arrested by the British authorities from Belgium has claimed being trained and dispatched to Brussels by Rashid to conduct a suicide attack, the interior ministry official maintained that the terror plot might have been set in motion before the American predator strike had targeted Rashid in North Waziristan.

Rashid Rauf was reported killed on November 22, 2008 after a missile fired from a CIA predator drone destroyed a mud-built bungalow in Alikhel village of the North Waziristan tribal agency. The house targeted by the missiles belonged to Khaliq Noor who had rented it out to some Pakistani militants a few weeks ago. However, their location had been betrayed, either by their own use of a mobile telephone, or by the spies tracking them. A day after the strike, the US authorities claimed that five people were killed in the attack, including two prominent al-Qaeda figures, Abu Nasr Al Misri and Abu Zubair Al Masri. The Americans had claimed at the time that the attack was aimed at these al-Qaeda men instead of Rashid Rauf. The American CIA and the British MI6 subsequently touted Rashid Rauf’s reported death to international media as evidence of the effectiveness of the US Predator strike program in Pakistan.

Interestingly, shortly after the November 2009 predator strike in Waziristan and the subsequent American claims about the death of Rashid Rauf, his family members as well as his lawyer had claimed that he was still alive. Describing media reports about the killing of Rashid as fake, his lawyer Hashmat Ali Habib told BBC radio on November 25, 2008: “We don’t believe that this story is true. It is a fake story. We still believe that my client, Rashid Rauf, is alive.” He had noted at the time that his requests for Rauf’s body to be returned to his family had not been answered. “This is a new technique of the government to dispose of the cases like Rashid or other missing people”, he had stated.

As a matter of fact, Rashid Rauf, a close relative of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Maulana Masood Azhar, was wanted by the British authorities for being a central figure in an August 2006 plot to blow up some US-bound trans-Atlantic airplanes. According to the information the British authorities had provided to Pakistan while seeking his arrest in 2006, Rashid Rauf was born in Mirpur and he went to England in 1981 when he was hardly one year old. He returned to Pakistan in 2002 while carrying dual nationality of both Pakistan and Britain. The frequent use of text messages to Britain by Rauf, who left England after the April 2002 murder of his uncle Mohammed Saeed, actually led to his arrest from Pakistan. Rauf’s arrest triggered the British authorities to launch a series of drone raids which netted 24 suspects across the UK. Rashid’s younger brother Tayib Rauf, 22, was among those arrested in raids on homes in Birmingham, England.

Rashid was subsequently arrested in Pakistan on August 9, 2006 after a tip-off from British anti-terrorism authorities, days before a series of August 2006 raids and arrests in Britain of men accused of conspiring to smuggle liquid bombs on board a series of Atlantic flights. Rashid was arrested from a Jaish-e-Mohammad run religious seminary – Jamia Dar-ul-Uloom Madnia, located at Model Town B Block area of Bahawalpur and being run by his in-laws. However, he had fled from the police custody on December 15, 2007 from F-8 Markaz, which is located in the heart of Islamabad while being taken back to the Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi after a court hearing. A subsequent inquiry had pointed out ‘inside help’ in his dramatic escape from the police custody.

The authorities subsequently arrested from Bahawalpur two of the five younger brothers of Masood Azhar and two of his six brothers-in-law. The arrests were made because of the fact that Rashid was the brother in law of one of Masood Azhar’s younger brother, Mohammad Tahir. Following the arrest of his two sons and two sons in law, Hafiz Allah Bukhsh, the father of Maulana Masood Azhar, reportedly told newsmen people in Bahawalpur that Rashid was a member of the Jaish but left it to join the rivals who were more interested in promoting al-Qaeda’s anti-Western agenda. “He was member of our group but later he deserted and joined Jamaatul Furqaan, led by a Jaish dissident, Maulana Abdul Jabbar,” Allah Bukhsh said at the Jaish headquarters in Bahawalpur in December 2007.

On August 17, 2007, a senior Pakistani official said in Islamabad that the British airport terror plot was sanctioned by Dr Ayman Zawahiri and that Rashid was the planner of the attacks. However, on December 13, 2006, the terrorism charges on Rashid were dropped as an anti terrorist court in Rawalpindi ruled there was no evidence of him being involved in planning any terrorist activity. Two days later, on December 15, 2007, as pressure mounted from the British government for his extradition, Rashid Rauf mysteriously escaped from the police custody. Almost nine months later, he was reported to have been killed in a US air strike.

Telegraph : Father of terror suspect accuses Britain of discrimination

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Father of terror suspect accuses Britain of discrimination

The father of a suspect in the alleged Easter bomb plot to blow up shopping centres claimed his son is a victim of discrimination in Britain.

By Nick Allen, Duncan Gardham and Isambard Wilkinson | April 14, 2009

Abid Naseer, 23, is among 11 men still being questioned after a series of police raids in Manchester and Liverpool last week. Ten of the suspects are Pakistani nationals

His father Nasrullah Jan Khattak said: “My son prays five times a day and his only fault is that he has a beard. His only sin is that he is Muslim and Pakistani.

“I'm astonished how they could think that Abid has links with militant or terrorist groups. We are never involved in such activities. We only think about education and prayers and fasting and that's it.

“Ours is a religious-minded family but this doesn't mean that my son is part of a terrorist cell. He is peaceful, religious-minded and cricket-loving person.”

Mr Khattak, a contractor for the Pakistan government, was speaking at his home in Peshawar, the capital of Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province.

The Daily Telegraph understands that at least five of those being questioned are from the North-West Frontier Province, close to the Afghan border.

It is also understood that four of the suspects – Abid Naseer, Janas Khan, Umar Farooq and Hamza Shinwari - worked as security guards.

Mr Khattak said his son studied at the Islamia College in Peshawar before going to the UK on a student visa two-and-a-half years ago. The visa was due to expire in September this year.

He was studying for a master’s degree in information technology at Bradford Professional Study College, based in Manchester.

The college is based in a suite of offices on the top floor of a Manchester business park.

College spokesman Syed Naqui told the Daily Telegraph: “This is a genuine college. If anyone applies for one of our courses we check their passport, their qualifications and their right to be in this country. If they meet all our requirements we enroll them.”

The North West counter terrorism unit are still searching 10 properties in Liverpool, the Cheetham Hill area of Manchester, and in Clitheroe, Lancashire.

They have not found any explosives or identified a clear target for the alleged bomb plot.

Officers have found images of Manchester’s Arndale and Trafford shopping centres, the Birdcage nightclub and St Ann's Square, it is understood. One man, aged 18, has been released into the hands of immigration officials and will be deported.

In Pakistan Khan Mohammad Burki, whose son Abdul Wahab is one of those still being questioned, said: “This is nothing but discrimination. My son has been detained on mere suspicion as the police have no proof against him."

Haji Hazrat Ali said his son Mohammad Ramzan, 25, traveled to Britain in 2006 and was studying for an masters in business administration when he was arrested.

Mr Ali said "He is a very humble, gentle boy and always concentrates on his studies. I firmly believe he simply cannot be involved in any negative activity."

BBC : Bomb squad at terror search home

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bomb squad at terror search home

April 14, 2009

Officers from the North West's counter-terrorism unit have called in army bomb disposal experts to a building on Merseyside as a precaution.

A cordon has been set up around Highgate Street in the Wavertree area of Liverpool, and several homes were evacuated for a few hours on Monday.

The address is one of 12 searched as part of the anti-terror inquiry in north-west England.

Police are still questioning 11 people arrested during the investigation.

Another man, 18, who had been held by counter-terror officers, has been released to the UK Border Agency and is expected to be deported.

A Greater Manchester Police spokeswoman said: "At this stage the experts have been called in as a precaution.

"Officers are working to ensure this is resolved with minimum disruption to local people and appreciate the community's co-operation and understanding."

Police have so far found no evidence of any explosives since raiding the properties in Manchester, Liverpool and Clitheroe in Lancashire, last Wednesday as part of a suspected bomb plot.

Officers discovered pictures of popular Manchester shopping centres and a nightclub, sources told the BBC.

They were named as the Arndale and Trafford Centre shopping complexes, Birdcage nightclub and St Ann's Square.

However, senior police have insisted that no specific targets have been identified.

The Peninsula : Families worry for students held in UK

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Families worry for students held in UK

April 14, 2009

PESHAWAR: The families of three Pakistani students arrested in UK on suspicion of involvement in a terrorist plot have stepped forward in three cities of NWFP and declared that the detained men were innocent.

Nasrullah Khattak, the father of Abid Naseer who was named in sections of the British media as the ringleader of the group of 11 Pakistanis detained in northwest England last Wednesday, said yesterday that his son had no link with militants and terrorists. “My son has a beard and prays five times a day. Ours is a religious-minded family but this doesn’t mean that my son is part of a terrorist cell,” he stressed. Khattak said the British media had wrongly reported that Abid Naseer belonged to the tribal areas.

“We belong to Karak district [in North West Frontier Province] but I shifted to Peshawar in 1987 and started doing business as a property dealer, government contractor and builder,” he explained. He said his son had studied at the Islamia College, Peshawar and was a good cricketer.

He said Abid Naseer went to England two years ago to acquire a degree in IT from a university in Manchester. “His student visa was going to expire in September 2009.

Daily Times : ‘Manchester terror plot’ suspect’s picture released

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

‘Manchester terror plot’ suspect’s picture released

Daily Times Monitor | April 14, 2009

Lahore: Daily Telegraph has released a picture of one of the Pakistani students arrested as part of an alleged Easter bomb plot in Manchester along with the information that he stayed at a residence owned by a terrorism-finance suspect.

Janas Khan, 25, a student at Hope University in Liverpool, had moonlighted as a security guard. He worked for £6 an hour at building sites around Liverpool until his cousin was deported for alleged visa violations in January. Khan studied for a degree designed to prepare students for medical school at the Government Superior Science College, Peshawar. Haroon Khan who had employed him, said: “He is very slight, not a big guy at all. We have a gym here but he never used it... He was a very clever lad but a bit of a loner, always looking for attention or company.”

After he resigned from this job he signed on with another company that employed him to act as a security guard at a new Homebase that opened in Clitheroe, Lancashire last week. The place is close to a chemical plant that the police suspect was being scouted as a potential target. MI5 observed the suspects filming themselves outside shopping malls in Manchester and they also visited a number of second-hand car dealerships.

Khan is thought to have stayed at a flat raided in Earle Road in Wavertree, Liverpool.

Daily Times : UK to deport ‘terror plot suspects’

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

UK to deport ‘terror plot suspects’

Daily Times Monitor | April 14, 2009

LAHORE: Lacking evidence needed to prosecute most of the Pakistani men arrested last week on suspicion of a terrorist plot, Britain has started seeking assurances that they would be treated humanely if they are returned to Pakistan.

“The British wanted to be reassured that if some of these men were deported they would not face torture,” a Pakistani official told The Times newspaper.

Senior counter-terrorism sources in Britain told the paper most of them would be deported rather than charged.

One of the 12 has already been freed from anti-terrorist detention and is in the custody of immigration officials.

Investigators have not found firm evidence linking the men to terrorist attack plans. “There is already talk of coming up empty-handed and there is terrible infighting between the different forces involved,” an official said.

Mere deportations will embarrass the prime minister who announced police were dealing with “a very big terrorist plot”.

Meanwhile anti-terrorist agencies in Pakistan are holding a British convert to Islam. James McLintock, 44, was arrested in Peshawar and is being questioned about helping British Muslim militants to make contacts in Pakistan.

Pakistani as well as British officials have said that the arrest is not linked to the continuing terrorism investigation in Britain. The last time McLintock came to the attention of the British authorities was in late 2003 when he was questioned by anti-terrorism police in Manchester.

The News : Pakistan seeks details on British terror plot suspects

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Pakistan seeks details on British terror plot suspects

April 14, 2009

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has asked Britain to provide complete details of Pakistani nationals arrested there over an alleged terror plot.

According to British newspaper, Pakistani officials asked British officials to provide names and addresses of 11 detained Pakistani students who were arrested last week on suspicion of involvement in a "major terrorist plot" linked to Al-Qaeda.

Pakistani High Commissioner Wajid Shamsul Hasan told British paper that Pakistan will protect the rights of arrested Pakistanis and proceedings will be carry out in accordance with Pakistani law.

Telegraph : Terror suspect was enrolled at college shut down by Home Office

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Terror suspect was enrolled at college shut down by Home Office

A suspect in the alleged Easter bomb plot to blow up shopping centres was enrolled as a student at a college which had allowed hundreds of Pakistani men to enter the UK on student visas.

By Nick Allen and Nigel Bunyan | April 14, 2009

Manchester College of Professional Studies shut down last July after being raided by the Home Office which had picked up "irregularities" in the way it was run.

During the two years it operated the college allowed foreigners to pay for a letter of admission which enabled them to get a student visa.

One of its students was Abdul Wahab Khan, 26, who is among 10 Pakistani nationals still being questioned after a series of raids by anti-terrorist police last week in the North West.

Police made the arrests after intercepting information which led them to suspect that a group from Pakistan was close to launching attacks.

Khan carried a student card saying he was an English language student at the college until April last year.

The Manchester site where the college used to be located is now occupied by another educational establishment, A6 Premier College, which has no connection to its predecessor.

A6 owner Mohammed Rizwan Khan, who is Indian not Pakistani, told the Daily Telegraph: "I signed a lease here in September 2008 and I had no idea what had been going on before.

"We only have a small number of students. They had 2,600 students on the database but this premises could not cater for more than a maximum of 150. It's to make money. People sell papers and when they get closed down they go off and set up another college."

There was no suggestion that the defunct college was knowingly helping terrorist suspects into the UK.

Bogus colleges have become a major loophole in Britain's immigration laws. Many are set up in small offices with websites boasting of world-class qualifications for international students.

In reality, they allow foreigners to enter the country on student visas and move into low-paid, often cash-in-hand employment.

The Government has cracked down on them in recent years, denying licences to nearly 500 would-be colleges. However, Home Office officials believe up to 2,000 with little or no educational value are still operating.

To get a student visa foreign nationals only have to prove they are accepted by one of the licensed colleges, that they are qualified for the course and have funds to pay the fees.

There is only a voluntary scheme for colleges themselves to alert the UK Border Agency if foreign students fail to attend their courses after arriving in the country.

In the last four years around 42,000 student visas were granted to Pakistani nationals.

A second suspect in the alleged Easter bomb plot, Abid Naseer, was enrolled a different college in Manchester called Bradford College of Professional Studies, according to his father in Peshawar.

Nasrullah Jan Khattak said his son was studying for a masters in information technology there.

The college is based in a suite of offices on the top floor of a Manchester business park and has a certificate of accreditation from the Association of Business Executives in its reception.

It offers courses including a one-year advanced diploma in business management costing £3,000.

On its website it advises overseas students that the British Government allows them to work for 20 hours a week in term time and full time in the holidays.

College spokesman Syed Naqui told the Daily Telegraph: "This is a genuine college. It has nothing to do with the one that closed down.

"If anyone applies for one of our courses we check their passport, their qualifications and their right to be in this country. If they meet all our requirements we enroll them. We check with the Home Office and we check their original passport, not a copy."

Because of the long Easter break Mr Naqui could not confirm whether Abid Naseer was currently enrolled at the college.

An investigation has been launched into the colleges some of the suspects used to get their student visas, including the Manchester College of Professional Studies and Bradford College of Professional Studies.

Both the Home Office and the UK Border Agency, which is responsible for controlling migration, said they could not discuss the "ongoing investigation".

But a spokesman for the UK Border Agency added: “We take allegations about colleges and their alleged involvement in abuse very seriously. Those found to be abusing the system can face up to 14 years imprisonment.

“We think it is fair that those that benefit from the contribution made by foreign students also take responsibility for ensuring they play by the rules."

Daily Times : Terror suspect's father says Islamophobia to blame for son's arrest

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Terror suspect's father says Islamophobia to blame for son's arrest

* Intelligence official dismisses reports linking the arrests in Britain to Rashid Rauf

zakir hassnain | daily times monitor | April 14, 2009

PESHAWAR: My son Abid Naseer has no link with any jihadi or religious organisation. His only crime is that he is a Pakistani Muslim, Nasrullah Jan Khattak, father of a Pakistani student arrested by the British police, said on Monday.

“My son prays five times a day and his only fault is that he wears a beard,” said Khattak while talking to reporters at his Hayatabad residence. The British officials arrested 12 men on April 8 of which 11 are Pakistanis. Abid hails from Yaghi Ghulam Khel, a village in Takht-e-Nusrati tehsil in southern district of Karak. Abid went to Britain on a student visa around two-and-a-half years ago and his visa expires in September this year. Abid is doing master’s in information technology at Bradford Professional Study College, Manchester.

Nasrullah, a government contractor, said the Pakistan government had not taken any measures for the release of the students. He requested the British government not to deport his son, who he insisted was innocent.

"This is all about his prayers and his beard. I am his father and I know him. He is not involved in any mysterious plot. We have done nothing wrong. We have nothing to hide," he told the Guardian in an interview in Pakistan. He denied media reports that his family had come from the Tribal Areas, where Taliban warlord Baitullah Mehsud holds sway and said they hail from Karak. "This is a great offence," Nasrullah said. "We are from an old district, with educated people. Not the tribal belt."

Meanwhile, the uncle of another suspect, told the Guardian that he and other relatives had regularly sent their nephew between £800 to £3,000 to help pay for his studies.

"He was too ambitious about his life and his studies. He was not up to any mischief. So I say to the UK government, please don't spoil his future," he said. Rahimullah Yousafzai, a veteran journalist, said: "Maybe some careless conversation or act has landed them in trouble. A few of them may be involved in this case, but I don't think it's a real terrorist plot."

Intelligence: A Pakistani intelligence official said the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) had no involvement in the case prior to last week's raids. He dismissed reports linking the arrests to Rashid Rauf, a British-Pakistani implicated in a previous alleged plot and believed killed in an American drone strike. Muhammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramazan Foundation, a Muslim youth organisation in Manchester, appealed for the local community to stay calm.