THE British and American governments have named a key Al-Qaeda suspect in Britain as one of the terror group’s alleged bankers.
Mohammed al-Ghabra, whose bank accounts have been frozen by the Bank of England, last week denied any involvement in terrorism. He admitted he had “radical views” and said he was an active supporter of Respect, the anti-war party led by George Galloway, the maverick former Labour MP.
The American government has issued a statement “designating” al-Ghabra, who lives in east London, as someone “who provides material and logistical support to Al-Qaeda
and other terrorist organisations”.
The Americans and British intelligence officials allege in official documents that al-Ghabra, 26, is a key organiser in the international “pipeline” that sends terrorists from Britain to fight coalition troops in Iraq.
In its statement, issued after his bank accounts were frozen, the US Treasury said: “Al-Ghabra has organised travel to Pakistan for individuals seeking to meet senior Al-Qaeda individuals and to undertake jihad training.
“Several of these individuals have returned to the UK to engage in covert activity on behalf of Al-Qaeda. Additionally, al-Ghabra has provided material support and facilitated the travel of UK-based individuals to Iraq to support the insurgents” fight against coalition forces.”
Last month his home, a two-storey maisonette where he lives with his mother and sister, was raided by Scotland Yard’s counterterrorist command. According to the search warrant, detectives were looking for “explosives, precursor chemicals, weapons, component parts of weapons or improvised explosive devices”.
They were also looking for “documentation, maps, plans or any other data giving details of possible targets/venues subject to terrorist attack”.
MI5 has apparently targeted al-Ghabra while conducting an investigation into the so-called “pipeline” that is fuelling the terrorist insurgency in Iraq.
The flow of young Muslim men from Europe to Iraq has increased in the past three years. The “pipeline” of suspected terrorists is being fuelled by growing resentment about American and British policy and scandals such as the maltreatment of inmates at Abu Ghraib prison.
Or so they say, and the Times accepts it unquestioningly, without a hint of the jihad ideology that underlies the conflict regardless of whatever handy pretext comes along, by which some Westerners can be duped into blaming themselves for crimes committed against them.
Al-Ghabra says that MI5 is simply wrong to connect him to any of this. “I don’t have the capability of supporting anyone financially, barely myself … If anyone has the evidence, please show it to me. I am not the banker.”
He was charged with fraud and possession of a document or record that could be useful to terrorism and spent nine months in Belmarsh high-security prison in south London before being acquitted by a jury in 2004.
He says he is an active member of the Muslim Prisoner Support group, which campaigns for the rights of suspected Islamic terrorists. The group’s website says he was a speaker at a demonstration it held outside Belmarsh last October.
British intelligence officials claim al-Ghabra is associated with several suspects who have been arrested in connection with alleged Al-Qaeda plots against British targets.
One is Haroon Aswat, currently in a British prison awaiting extradition to America on terrorism charges.
Al-Ghabra said he met Aswat at a religious school in the Pakistani city of Lahore.
He said their association was entirely innocent and he was “shocked” to see Aswat’s picture on television when he was arrested in 2005 after the London bombings.
The American Treasury claims al-Ghabra is “in regular contact with UK-based Islamic extremists and has been involved in the radicalisation of individuals in the UK through the distribution of extremist media”.
But al-Ghabra denied that his views were extreme. “My radical views are the same as any ordinary Muslim’s radical views. Yes, I disagree with the invasion of Iraq. Yes, I disagree with the invasion of Afghanistan … I don’t agree with people coming here and … fighting here, fighting the British public. Things like the July bombings I don’t agree with.”