Clockwise from top left: Ahmed, Rasul, Udeen, and Iqbal
The Times Online has some intriguing profiles of British citizens held at Guantanamo, some of whom are being released today. There is only one thing linking these men together, and that is an Islamic identity that led them to commit to the ideals of violent jihad. Note that several are converts to Islam: why weren’t they taught that it was a religion of peace?
The five Britons detained at Guantanamo Bay who are due to be released today are:
Ruhal Ahmed, 23, a student from Tipton, West Midlands. His family claim that he went to attend a friend’s wedding in Pakistan some time between the end of September 2001 and the start of the US-led war with the Taleban on October 7.
He travelled with two other Muslim men from the same town. All three men became detainees at Camp Delta and have been dubbed the “Tipton Taleban”.
The three men attended the town’s Alexandra High School. US forces held Mr Ahmed in Kandahar, Afghanistan, before sending him to the US naval base detention centre on Cuba.
Mr Ahmed is the third of six children — two girls and four boys. His father is a British citizen who moved to the UK from what is now Bangladesh. After Mr Ahmed left school, he took a part-time job in a local factory and also helped in community centres. He is described by his family as a “very friendly boy” who was a keen kick boxer and a practising Muslim.
After flying out to Pakistan to help with the wedding, the family heard on January 26, 2002, that he was being held in Guantanamo Bay. His father, Riasoth Ahmed, said: “He is a kid, straight out of school. How could he be a terrorist? Out of here, and then at end of one month he was stopped.”
Asif Iqbal, 20, a parcel depot worker from Tipton. Unconfirmed reports suggest that the Northern Alliance, the Taleban’s enemy, captured him in northern Afghanistan.
Mr Iqbal travelled to Pakistan at his family’s suggestion and was accompanied by his father Mohammed. His parents believed it was time for him to get married and settle down.
He met his prospective bride during his first week in Faisalabad, but told his father he wanted time to think and went to Karachi, but did not return, according to reports.
Shafiq Rasul, 25, left for Pakistan in late September 2001 to attend a computer training course in Lahore, according to his brother, Habib, an IT consultant.
Mr Rasul, from Tipton, had been abroad before only for trips to Benidorm and Tenerife on Club 18-30 package holidays. He was a passionate Liverpool football fan, was into fashion and clubbing and had a white girlfriend, according to his family.
Mr Rasul is believed to have been captured in Mazar-e-Sharif after a mutiny by prisoners.
Tarek Dergoul, 24, a former care worker for the elderly in East London. He is the son of a Moroccan baker and a lifelong Muslim.
It is believed that he was captured in the Tora Bora mountains to which the Taleban had fled after the US military onslaught. One of his arms was reportedly amputated after he was wounded.
He contacted his family in March 2002 to say he was being held in Kandahar. He originally told his family he was flying to Pakistan in 2001 to learn Arabic. He is believed to have been sent to Guantanamo Bay in May, 2002.
Jamal al-Harith, also known as Jamal Udeen, 35, is from Manchester and a website designer of Jamaican origin.
He is believed to have been detained in the spring of 2001 by US forces who found him in Kandahar Jail.
He had been away from home for only three weeks when he was captured. According to reports he told US soldiers he had paid a lorry driver to take him from northern Pakistan to Iran as part of a backpacking trip, but was stopped near the Afghan border by Taleban soldiers who saw his British passport and jailed him, fearing he was a spy.
Born Ronald Fiddler to devout churchgoing Jamaican parents, Mr al-Harith converted to Islam in his 20s. His family say he is a gentle, quiet man who rarely spoke of his faith unless asked, and after four years learning Arabic and teaching English at Khartoum University in Sudan, seemed happy enough to return home, marry and set up a computer business with his wife.
He was a devoted father to their three children and was devastated when the marriage broke down, moving back to Manchester, where he worked as an administrator in a Muslim school.
The four not being released:
Feroz Abbasi, 23, from Croydon, South London, a former computer studies student, detained at Kunduz, Afghanistan in December 2001.
Born in Uganda he moved to Britain with his family when he was eight, settling in Croydon and then attending Edenham High School. After A levels at John Ruskin college, he took a two-year computing course at Nescot College in Epsom.
He is thought to have regularly worshipped at the notorious Finsbury Park mosque in North London, where Muslim firebrand Abu Hamza gave his sermons.
Mr Abassi’s mother, Zumrati Juma, said that she last saw her son in December 2000 before he travelled to Afghanistan. In January 2002 he was arrested in Afghanistan as an “unlawful combatant” and since his imprisonment, contact with his mother and family has been limited. In the same month he was transferred to Camp Delta where he remains.
UK officials last saw Mr Abbasi in April 2003, but he kept silent for an hour as they tried to talk to him amid his family’s reported concerns about his mental health.
Moazzam Begg, 36, from Sparkhill, Birmingham, was arrested by the CIA in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, in February 2002.
Mr Begg is a language teacher and law student who ran a bookshop selling religious and historical books and videotapes, before moving his family to Afghanistan to carry out charity work, according to relatives.
The father of four phoned his father Azmat, a retired bank manager from Birmingham, after his detention to say: “I’ve been arrested, I’m being taken, I don’t know where or why.” He was first held for a year at the Bagram air base in Afghanistan before being sent to Guantanamo in spring 2003.
Martin Mubanga, 29, from North London. He is a former motorcycle courier whose parents came from Zambia in the 1970s and was raised as a Catholic. Nr Mubanga converted to Islam in his 20s. It is not clear when or how he got to Afghanistan, but he fled the country and was arrested in Zambia by the local authorities before being placed in US custody.
Richard Belmar, 23, from London. It is believed he attended a Catholic school in North London, and converted to Islam in his teens, after his elder brother. He worshipped at Regent’s Park mosque, close to his home in Maida Vale, London.
It is reported he travelled to Pakistan, where he was first detained, before the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.