LONDON July 25 – A radical Muslim group which openly celebrated the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States said on Sunday it had called off a planned rally in central London because of fears of a possible al-Qaeda attack.
A spokesman for the Al-Muhajiroun group in Britain, Anjem Choudary, said its leader Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad had been told al-Qaeda had repeated its warning of attacks against Europe if they refused to pull troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Choudary said the rally would therefore be moved outside London to ensure the safety of those who take part.
“I have been informed by Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad that they (al-Qaeda) have reiterated the same warning that was issued a couple of weeks ago about the three-month deadline,” Choudary told Reuters.
Choudary was referring to an audiotape broadcast by two Arabic television stations on April 15, in which Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader, offered a “truce” to European governments if they pulled troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I offer a truce to them (Europe) with a commitment to stop operations against any state which vows to stop attacking Muslims,” bin Laden said in a recording which CIA officials said they believed to be genuine. Bin Laden set a three-month deadline, presumed to have expired on July 15.
A spokeswoman for London’s Metropolitan police said there was a long-standing national terrorism threat but she was not aware of any specific threat having been issued or repeated.
London’s authorities had already ruled the rally by the Al-Muhajiroun group could not take place.
The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, wrote to Al-Muhajiroun last week, refusing them permission to hold their rally in London and threatening prosecution if they defied authorities.
In a written statement sent to Reuters, the Al-Muhajiroun group said the decision to relocate was taken by Sheikh Muhammad “after consultation with various leaders within the Muslim community and … lecturers and students of Sharia.”
“The decision has been made mainly for the safety of the Muslim community and in order not to cause any extra anxiety for those who may be visiting London from abroad, bearing in mind the increasingly tense atmosphere existing regarding security arrangements,” the statement said.
He said the rally, which had been expected to draw around 600 radical Muslim supporters, would now take place in Essex on Sunday but would give no details of the exact time or location.
The spokeswoman for London’s Metropolitan police said she had not been informed of any relocation of the protest and that police were ready to act if it did go ahead in London.