Two Men From Small-Town Britain Among Terror Suspects
July 7, 2008
London (CNSNews.com) - Two young men from a small town in the English midlands are among the 158 prisoners being held in Cuba on suspicion of belonging to the world's most dangerous terrorist organization, British officials have confirmed.
The U.K. Foreign Office said that 20-year-old Asif Iqbal and 24-year-old Shafiq Rasul were among the al Qaeda terror suspects being held at Guantanamo Bay naval base. Both come from Tipton, a town of about 23,000 in the heart of Britain's main industrial region. Foreign Office officials confirmed Monday that a third Tipton resident, 20-year-old Ruhal Ahmed, was in U.S. custody in Afghanistan.
A fourth Briton being held, 22-year-old Feroz Abbasi from suburban London, was identified last week.
Relatives of the men denied they had been involved in terrorism and pleaded for their release Monday. Rasul's older brother Murtza said the suspect had traveled to Pakistan for a computer course in October, and that they had last spoken to him on Dec. 24.
Murtza Rasul told the BBC that Shafiq "could have been brainwashed."
"He could (also) have gone over there to aid the women and children," Murtza Rasul said.
Another of Shafiq Rasul's brothers said he was "more into soccer and designer clothes" than religion.
Link to militant group
Reports said that up to 17 more British Muslims have been captured in Afghanistan. Iqbal and Rasul have also been linked to the militant al-Muhajiroun group, which has branches in several countries, including the U.K. The two men were reportedly recruited into fighting for al Qaeda and the Taliban while in Pakistan.
In October, an al-Muhajiroun spokesman based in London told CNSNews.com that dozens of American and British Muslims were being recruited to fight for the Taliban.
The group's main recruiter in Pakistan, Hassan Butt, later claimed that five British Muslims were killed during U.S. bombing raids, a claim that was proved false when the men turned up alive in Pakistan.
Butt has also said that Taliban fighters returning to their home countries would continue to "take military action."
"One thing I've always tried to stress is the point that the mujahideen that are coming in from Britain should strike at the heart of the enemy which is within its own country," he said earlier this month. "Those mujahideen that are coming from America should strike, again, at the heart of America and I have always been in favour of this."
On Monday, a spokesman for al-Muhajiroun's London branch denied media reports that Iqbal and Rasul were members of the organization, but declined further comment.
No POW status
On Sunday, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld reaffirmed the decision by the Bush administration to deny the terror suspects prisoner of war status.
"They are not POWs. They will not be determined POWs," Rumsfeld said after visiting the Guantanamo Bay facility.
E-mail a news tip to Mike Wendling.
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