Sunday, May 8, 2011
Police pay Muslim with links to 7/7 leader to teach them how to fight terror
Tafazal Mohammad, 46, was described at the inquest into the Al Qaeda-inspired attacks in London as a suspected ‘terrorist sympathiser’ who was twice placed under surveillance by MI5.
Yet he received more than £80,000 of taxpayers’ money to lecture Scotland Yard counter-terrorism officers, council workers and youth leaders on how best to ‘engage’ with Muslims.
Families of 7/7 victims reacted with disbelief at Mr Mohammad’s lucrative consultancy work. ‘Anyone who has been involved with terrorists needs to be fully vetted,’ said Graham Foulkes, whose son David was killed in the Edgware Road train attack.
Mr Mohammad ran an Islamic bookshop in Leeds with Mohammed Sidique Khan who, along with three other bombers, launched Britain’s deadliest terror attack since the Lockerbie bombing, killing 52 innocent people in 2005.
patrick Mercer MP, a former Conservative security spokesman, accused the police of ‘gross incompetence’ for failing to carry out checks. ‘How someone who has been the subject of surveillance by MI5 for alleged extremism can end up teaching counter-terrorism officers beggars belief,’ he added.
The Metropolitan Police admitted that it failed to vet Mr Mohammad before sending about 20 officers on a course run by his consultancy, Muslim Youth Skills, in June last year. It paid him £1,840 through the controversial Government initiative Preventing Violent Extremism, which has now been put under review because of widespread criticism that it alienated rather than engaged Muslim communities. ‘We do not routinely carry out background checks on organisations or individuals we work with or have contact with,’ said a police spokesman.
He was paid almost £70,000 by the Department for Education for his work with the National Council for Voluntary Youth Services, and he received £10,000 from a council for running seminars. Mr Mohammad’s links to the bombers emerged during the five-month inquest which ended on Friday when coroner Lady Justice Hallett ruled that all 52 victims were unlawfully killed.
In her ruling, she described Mr Mohammad as an ‘extremist’ on a number of occasions and also said he was among a group of ‘suspected terrorist sympathisers’, who, along with Khan, were trustees of an Islamic bookshop called Iqra in the Beeston area of Leeds. This was based on evidence given by an MI5 agent, who was identified as Witness G.
The inquest heard that Mr Mohammad was being watched by MI5 and West Yorkshire Police in 2001 when he attended a training camp in the Lake District that was led by Martin McDaid, a former Royal Marine and convert to Islam who was a well-known extremist in the Leeds area. Also at the camp was Khan.
MI5 photographed Mr Mohammad with Mr McDaid and Khan – and Witness G told the inquest that Mr Mohammad became a ‘person of interest’ to the security services at the time, more so than Khan.
In a 2003 operation nicknamed Honey¬suckle, the inquest heard, Mr Mohammad was again watched as part of an extremist group by MI5 and West Yorkshire Police.
By that time, Mr Mohammad and nine others had opened the Iqra bookstore. Mr Mohammad was a secretary and trustee of Iqra.
Another trustee was Khan’s fellow July 7 bomber Shehzad Tanweer and Waheed Ali and Mohammed Shakil, who were jailed in 2009 for conspiracy to attend a jihad training camp abroad.
A Met source said: ‘We can’t possibly do searches on every company and individual whose courses we go on. The problem with the Prevent scheme is that it is accused of spying too much. Now we are accused of not spying enough.’
When a Mail on Sunday reporter visited Mr Mohammad at his office in Bradford, he referred all matters to his solicitor, Imran Khan.
Declining to answer questions, Mr Khan said in a statement: ‘Mr Mohammad wishes to make clear that . . . he is not and has never been an “extremist” or a “known terrorist sympathiser”.
‘These assertions are wholly inaccurate and extremely damaging to his reputation and should not be repeated in any way.
‘Mr Mohammed has instructed us to write to the coroner to state that these assertions were never put to him so he could have the opportunity of addressing them. The coroner has been asked to correct the position.’