LONDON (AFP) – A mosque in north London served as a “haven” for Islamic extremists as the capital became a central hub in the worldwide movement of militants, US documents seen by WikiLeaks showed this Monday.
The files, written by senior US military commanders at Guantanamo Bay, called the Finsbury Park mosque “an attack planning and propaganda production base” and named preachers Abu Qatada and Abu Hamza as key recruiters.
According to the leaked document — details of which were published on the website of the Telegraph newspaper — the two men sent dozens of extremists from throughout the world to train and fight in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
At least 35 detainees at the prison at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were captured while fighting against allied forces in Afghanistan having arrived there via British mosques.
Of these, 17 were British nationals or citizens who had been given residence after claiming asylum with the rest coming from abroad.
US officials described Qatada, whom the British government once paid compensation after he was “unfairly detained”, as “the most successful recruiter in Europe” and a “focal point for extremist fundraising”.
Hamza, who is famous for his prosthetic hook hand, was accused of urging “his followers to murder non-Muslims”. Both preachers were granted asylum in Britain.
US relations with Britain have occasionally been tested over the latter’s perceived reluctance to purge radicalism from within its own borders.
This suspicion is echoed in the files, which claimed Finsbury Park mosque “served to facilitate and train recruits,” and was “a haven for Islamic extremists from Morocco and Algeria.”
Another leaked document revealed US officials suspected the BBC of being a “possible propaganda media network” for Al-Qaeda after several suspected terrorists were found to have the same telephone number for the British broadcaster.
The trove of classified files released by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks showed US officials struggling with often flawed evidence and confused about the guilt or innocence of detainees held at the prison.
The Telegraph was among a group of US and European media outlets that obtained the 779 secret documents, including The Washington Post, National Public Radio, The New York Times, El Pais, Le Monde, Der Spiegel and La Repubblica.
According to a document seen by the Guardian newspaper, an Al-Qaeda operative suspected of bombing two Christian churches and a hotel in Pakistan was simultaneously working for British intelligence.
In another file, it was claimed that a detainee who was believed to be an Al-Qaeda aide, received £300,000 from the British government to destroy his opium crop.
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