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British Islamist Issues Warning
LONDON –– A British Muslim who claims to have sent volunteers to Afghanistan to aid the Taliban said Monday they may return to Britain to launch terrorist attacks against government and military targets.
Hassan Butt, 22, leads the Pakistan wing of the British-based Al-Muhajiroun, a militant Islamic group.
He said some of the Britons he recruited to fight with Afghanistan's ousted Taliban government were killed by U.S.-led forces.
Those who survived could now launch a "new phase" of terrorism in their British homeland, Butt said.
"If they do return, I do believe they will take military action within Britain," he said in an interview from Pakistan with the British Broadcasting Corp. He said their targets would be "British military and government institutes, as well as British military and government individuals."
The British government responded to Butt's claim by saying that it would prosecute any British citizens caught engaging in acts of terrorism or supporting terrorist groups.
The Home Office statement said: "We are monitoring a number of individuals and their organizations."
During the fighting in Afghanistan, a few British Muslims reportedly volunteered to fight for the Taliban. But the Home Office denied Butt's claim to have helped recruit more than 200 British volunteers to fight for Afghanistan's former government.
"The vast majority of British Muslims want no part of these activities, and there is no evidence to support claims that hundreds of people joined the Taliban. To suggest otherwise is both irresponsible and creates dangers of community tension," the Home Office said.
Ghayasauddin Siddiqui, leader of the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain, an unofficial assembly of Muslim organizations and civic groups in Britain, called Butt's statement "a very worrying and frightening point of view." Speaking to the BBC, he said: "These young (British) men have been ... misguided by people of little understanding."
Siddiqui said they "are using Islam as a cover for their evil designs" and he hopes they "will realize their mistakes ... and reorder their priorities."
On Monday, Butt, who was raised in Manchester, said he secretly returned to Britain for three weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, undetected by security forces.
"The mere fact that the British government had no idea I was here shows the incompetence and shows the vulnerability that Britain has when it comes to dealing with the mujahedin (holy warriors) and the Muslims," he said.
-- Anonymous, January 07, 2002