The Observer (England), May 4, 2003
Martin Bright, home affairs editor
Leaflets published in the Midlands urging Muslims to become suicide bombers have been found in Israel’s occupied territories. The discovery fuels fears that Britain has become a haven for Islamic extremists.
Now Israeli authorities have demanded that Britain launch an immediate investigation into al-Sunnah, the organisation based at Birmingham’s Centre for Islamic Studies, which published the leaflets.
One leaflet published just before the outbreak of war against Saddam Hussein urges Muslims to become martyrs in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine. Supporters are asked to send donations to a NatWest bank account at its Digbeth branch in Birmingham.
The al-Sunnah group is known in radical Muslim circles for its hard-core stance over the occupation of Palestine and the involvement of Western governments in the support of Israel. However, the organisation has had a generally low profile in Britain – until now.
Al-Sunnah publishes books, leaflets and a monthly magazine that is distributed across the Muslim world including the West Bank and Gaza strip.
One leaflet published just before the war in Iraq said: ‘When this sudden explosion of American-Zionist violence is aiming to eradicate a nation’s existence, eliminating its vitality and sites of resistance, the only way to protect this nation is through acts of martyrdom.’
The Centre for Islamic Studies refused to comment.
Israeli police claim that last week’s bomb attack in an Irish bar in Tel Aviv, which killed three people and injured 50, was carried out by two Britons: Asif Mohammed Hanif, 21, from Hounslow and Omar Khan Sharif, 27, from Derby.
Police in Britain arrested six people this weekend in connection with the attack. The three men and three women are being held in London. They are thought to be members of Sharif’s family. The Derby man is on the run in Israel after failing to detonate his explosives.
Peace activists from the International Solidarity Movement came under renewed pressure to leave the occupied territories yesterday after allegations that the British suicide bombers had attended an ISM memorial on Friday, 25 April, in honour of Rachel Corrie, an activist killed by Israeli forces. ISM last night said activists Hanif and Sharif appeared to be ‘typical Brits’.
‘They were in our apartment for 15 minutes, then spent 10 minutes at the ceremony,’ said 20-year-old American ISM activist Lora Gordon. ‘They had absolutely nothing to do with us and we had never met them before. We were just happy to have people come to commemorate Rachel. I was utterly shocked when I heard what had happened in Tel Aviv. We didn’t hear about the suicide bombing until the night after it had happened.’
Yesterday US Secretary of State Colin Powell announced that Syria had begun closing the offices of militant groups in Damascus, where it is thought the two British suicide bombers may have been recruited.
A State Department official said the terrorist organisations Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command and Palestinian Islamic Jihad had been outlawed after meetings with Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.