The UK Terror Threat

Posted: December 30, 2008 in HSToday
Tags: , ,

My latest for HSToday, this time looking broadly at the terror threat in the UK – have a longer piece on one of the two trials referenced coming up in January, and have written previously about the other (fortunately, I didn’t say anything that was then disproven, hooray for me for being careful!). This was meant to run earlier, hence the reference to “last week” in the first line being inaccurate.

The UK Terror Threat

by Raffaello Pantucci   

Tuesday, 30 December 2008


Actual terrorists remain a rare breed, but they continue to threaten Britain

The separate convictions last week of Bilal Abdullah, Rangzieb Ahmed and Habib Ahmed should provide evidence to those who still doubt the severity and complexity of the terrorist threat to the United Kingdom. On the one hand, Rangzieb Ahmed and Habib Ahmed (who are unrelated but share the same surname) show that the threat from international Al Qaeda-linked terrorism is very real, while Bilal Abdullah’s conviction demonstrates the immediate threat to the UK from the grievances felt by many in the Muslim world.

Rangzieb Ahmed’s case is a particularly interesting one. It highlights both the pivotal role that some British Muslims have played in Al Qaeda and affiliated groups’ global networks, and the existence of a network of British home-grown terrorists who have tried to attack the UK and have gone to fight in Afghanistan.

In a court case that received a surprisingly limited amount of coverage, Rangzieb Ahmed was the first individual in the UK to be convicted of “directing terrorism as a member of Al Qaeda,” while co-conspirator Habib Ahmed was convicted of being a member of the infamous terrorism organization.

Among the wealth of information that was made public at the trial’s conclusion is evidence that links Rangzieb Ahmed to the 21/7 plotters (failed bomber Yassin Omar’s number was on his telephone), as well as evidence that early British-Pakistani terrorist Omar Saeed Sheikh (who currently resides in a Pakistani jail on charges of murdering Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl) sent Ahmed money while he was in jail in India for illegally crossing the border in Kashmir.

The trial further showed that Rangzieb had deep connections to Al Qaeda, including then-number three, Hamza Rabia, as well as being a member of a Kashmiri-focused terror group and Al Qaeda-linked Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen.

Habib Ahmed, on the other hand, provides a connection to the broader British jihad, with longstanding involvement in the Manchester branch of the now banned radical group, Al Muhajiroun.

Photographic evidence presented at the trial showed Habib’s marriage was presided over by Omar Bakri Mohammed, the exiled Syrian preacher who first established Al Muhajiroun in the UK. Habib was also identified by American  Mohammed Junaid Barbar, a former Al Muhajiroun member who was instrumental in linking the July 7 group to the failed “fertilizer plotters.”

If nothing else, this trial should put to rest the idea that there has been no connection between Al Qaeda central and plots that have targeted the United Kingdom. What is most disturbing about the other trial that concluded last week is that it would seem as though this is not the only threat that we have to worry about.

Dr. Bilal Abdullah was born in the United Kingdom to an Iraqi family and was raised in Iraq. His now dead co-conspirator Dr. Kafeel Ahmed was born in Bangalore, India.

In Iraq, Bilal saw the misery wrought upon his people by the West, while Kafeel’s childhood as a minority Muslim in India and then Saudi Arabia exposed him to the suffering of Muslims around the world. The two met in Cambridge while training to be doctors (Bilal was a medical doctor; Kafeel was an engineering PhD) where they both apparently started down a path to radicalization without any clear external connections.

Bilal’s apparent will, discovered on a laptop in the car with them, was addressed to the “Soldiers of the Islamic State of Iraq” – the proper name for Abu Musab al Zarqawi’s Al Qaeda in Iraq. Some reports have hinted that Abdullah may have connected with the insurgency in Iraq when he spent time there between May and July 2006.

British police though claim that their investigations uncovered no evidence of any connection, a fact supported by the incompetence of the group in their inability to make either of their car bombs actually blow up (suggesting that they hadn’t had much opportunity to practice or been trained by an expert).

It would therefore seem as though we are seeing in this group the possibility of a home-grown cell that autonomously came together and decided on their own course of action. When one couples this to the conclusions previously drawn from the Rangzieb Ahmed trial and the broader international network he is part of, a terrorist threat to the UK emerges that has an almost dizzying level of complexity and menace.

But neither of these plots led to any casualties, aside from wannabe-bomber Kafeel Ahmed. And because they didn’t, it indicates that while the threat may be severe, it is not always effective. Actual terrorists remain a rare breed, but they continue to threaten the United Kingdom.

  1. It’s very intresting information!!!
    Thank you!

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