- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 27, 2001

LONDON Richard C. Reid, the man accused of trying to blow up an American Airlines trans-Atlantic flight by detonating explosives in his shoes, spoke approvingly of suicide attacks and disappeared to Pakistan several months ago, his mother and acquaintances said yesterday.
Lesley Hughes-Reid said in an interview that her son stopped communicating with his family months ago. When she sought information at the London mosque where he had worshipped, she was told he had gone to Pakistan.
Al Qaeda detainees have told American interrogators in Afghanistan they recalled seeing Mr. Reid at training camps there, news agencies reported yesterday.
However, U.S. officials cautioned the Associated Press that their informants, shown Mr. Reid's photograph, could have been confused or seeking to curry favor with their interrogators.
Abdel Haqq Baker, the leader of the London mosque that Mr. Reid attended, said in an interview that the young man had been heard "expressing views in favor of suicide bombings and of the right to attack innocent civilians."
"Those ideas he got from sources outside our mosque," Mr. Baker added.
The only man so far charged in connection with the September 11 attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, French citizen Zacarias Moussaoui, attended the same mosque in the mid-1990s. It is not known whether he and Mr. Reid ever met, but Mr. Baker said it is "highly probable" that they did.
Mr. Reid, identified from his fingerprints, is on a suicide watch in a Boston prison and will appear in court tomorrow.
"I would describe it as 24-hour watch at the request of the marshal's service based on his behavior on the plane and after his arrest," Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Timothy Bane was quoted as saying.
Born of a marriage between a white British mother and a Jamaican immigrant father, 28-year-old Mr. Reid became a Muslim in prison. He had been jailed several times for offenses that included mugging.
Known as Abdel Rahim, he became increasingly radical while being educated four years ago in the Brixton Mosque and Islamic Cultural Center, which says it preaches a centrist mainstream form of Islam.
The center is situated in a working-class area of London that has a high proportion of blacks from the Afro-Caribbean community and has been the scene of occasional race riots.
The mosque's leader said last night that hundreds more young men may have been converted to radical Islam and al Qaeda-style violence through London Islamic movements whose teaching is at variance with that of his mosque.
"The call of the extremists here and their education is effective," Mr. Baker said. "Our concern is how many more individuals in the more mainstream cultural mosques have been hooked."
Many of them, he added, would belong to the large Bangladeshi and Pakistani immigrant communities in Britain.
Mr. Baker said his south Brixton mosque and cultural center was fertile ground for extremists to prey on gullible new converts or on disaffected youths.
Mr. Reid whom Mr. Baker described as "amicable and affable and very, very impressionable" had begun with Arabic lessons and attended prayers regularly five times a day. He earned money by selling incense outside the local subway station.
After a couple of years, Mr. Reid disappeared for a time and returned in a more militant mood.
"He regularly questioned us on the nature of jihad [holy war] and disagreed with our more moderate views," said Mr. Baker, who became alarmed when Mr. Reid began wearing military-style jackets to go with his radical new ideas.
Mr. Moussaoui, the mosque leader recalled, had been "quite vocal and quite arrogant."
He said both men had been asked to leave the mosque. He also said the mosque regularly reported to the police any suspicions they had about terrorists, though he did not say whether he had mentioned either Mr. Reid or Mr. Moussaoui to the anti-terrorist unit of the Metropolitan Police.
"We here at the center honestly believe there are more serious things to come, and we have told the police that," Mr. Baker said outside his mosque. "He was sent as a tester."
Britain, while at the forefront of support for the global war against terrorism, has refused to clamp down on many of the radical Islamic groups that operate there.
This has caused public criticism from foreign leaders such as President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, who has demanded the extradition of a man suspected in assassination plots against a former Egyptian prime minister.
Britain, like many European states, will not extradite suspects to countries where they could face the deathpenalty.
Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration issued an emergency "security directive" in Washington on Sunday that describes procedures airline and airport personnel must follow for inspecting passengers' shoes for explosives.
An industry source said the directive avoids profiling passengers most likely to engage in acts of terrorism. The shoe inspection requirements took effect Monday.
Tom Ramstack contributed to this report in Washington.


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