Friday, September 15, 2006

A British Muslim accused of a deadly fertiliser bomb plot told how the September 11 terror attacks made him happy

Daily Mail:

Omar Khyam also described how he ran away to Pakistan to receive military training and was taught "everything for warfare".

The 24-year-old, from Crawley, West Sussex, is the first of seven terror suspects to testify at the Old Bailey over allegations they were part of a British Al Qaeda cell which planned to blow up civilian targets in the UK.

His testimony revealed how a boy brought up in a respectable family with little interest in religion ended up involved with jihadi recruiters.

Asked in court about his reaction to the 2001 attack on the World Trade Centre, he told the jury: "I was happy. America was, and still is, the greatest enemy of Islam. They put up puppet regimes in Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt."

But he said he later decided that the attack had been tactically unwise, explaining: "I think we would be working better in our own countries, trying to establish an Islamic state."

Khyam first heard people saying Britain should be attacked when the Afghan war started in 2001, but at that time would defend British foreign policy. But he told the court that the Iraq war was 'the final straw'. He said it was a 'war on Islam' and that "the UK and America needed to be attacked".

Prosecutors claim Khyam discussed blowing up London's Ministry of Sound nightclub, the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent, or pubs and train stations. He and two of his six co-defendants are also said to have stored 600kg (1,320lb) of ammonium nitrate fertiliser, a type used by the IRA to make bombs, at Access Storage Solutions in Hanwell, West London.

Staff at Access contacted police after becoming suspicious when the huge bag was left there for more than three months. A secret film was made by police of Khyam entering the unit at lunchtime on March 15, 2004.

Khyam is seen on the video to walk round the bag of Kemira SingleTop fertiliser, which had been kept on a wooden pallet.

He then crouches down and appears to make marks on the bag as well as looking into the top of it.

Unknown to Khyam, police had earlier replaced the fertiliser with a safe substance. He and his codefendants were followed and bugged by MI5 agents and arrested in 2004.

The court heard how Khyam's grandfather had served with the British Army during the Second World War before moving to Britain with his family in the Seventies. Khyam said he had attended a predominantly white school where he was captain of the cricket team and did well in his GCSEs.

Although his family were Muslims, he had been brought up in a secular household with his mother and brothers who "did not pay much attention to religion".

But he became more interested in Islam as a teenager at college in Surrey-and started attending meetings of a radical group, Al Muhajiroun, whose aim was to set up an Islamic state.

Aged 17 he ran away from home to undergo intensive military training after making contact with Mujahideen recruiters during a holiday to Pakistan a few months earlier.

He flew out of the UK in January 2000 and attended a camp high in the mountains of occupied Kashmir where, he said, Kashmiri Muslims "trained me for guerilla warfare".

He learned to use weapons including Kalashnikov AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades. He saw others receive explosives training, but said he had not been involved.

Khyam left the camp in March 2000 and returned to Crawley, where he received a hero's welcome. He said: "When I got back to my house and I opened the door my cousins were standing in two rows with flowers and as I walked through they threw flowers at me."

He later made a trip to Afghanistan where he met members of the Taliban, who he thought were 'amazing'.

He said: "They are soft, kind and humble towards the Muslims but harsh against their enemies."

And he claimed Osama Bin Laden was regarded as a hero in the country.

Khyam, Waheed Mahmood, 34, Anthony Garcia, 25, Jawad Akbar, 23, Shujah Mahmood 19, Salahuddin Amin, 31, and Nabeel Hussain, 21, all deny conspiracy to cause an explosion likely to endanger life.

Khyam, Garcia and Hussain deny possessing 600kg of ammonium nitrate fertiliser for terrorism while Khyam and Shujah Mahmood also deny possessing aluminium powder for terrorism. The trial continues.

Profile: Omar Khyam

Terror accused 'ran away' to join jihad

'Terror training' suspects held

UK: Accused Muslim Was "Happy" About 9/11

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