- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 31, 2001

LONDON An Egyptian man arrested in London last week has been charged with conspiring in the murder of the military leader of Afghanistan's Northern Alliance, according to court papers made public yesterday.

Yasser Sirri, 38, was charged in the death of Ahmed Shah Masood, the charismatic military leader of the coalition of forces battling Afghanistan's Taliban. Mr. Masood was mortally wounded in a suicide bombing two days before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

"On or before Sept. 9, 2001, [Mr. Sirri] conspired with others unknown to murder" Mr. Masood, the court papers charged.

Mr. Sirri was also accused of soliciting support for a banned organization the Egyptian radical group al-Gamaa al-Islamiyya raising funds for terrorism, stirring up racial hatred and making available property for the purposes of terrorism.

Mr. Masood, a veteran guerrilla commander often called the "Lion of the Panjshir" because of his military prowess against the former Soviet Union, had become the symbol of opposition to Afghanistan's ruling Taliban.

Mr. Masood, 48, died of his wounds on Sept. 15.

Mr. Sirri's arrest under the Terrorism Act was not directly linked to the Sept. 11 attacks, police said.

Prosecutors also claimed he was involved in an arrangement that may have resulted in an unknown amount of money being used for terrorism.

Mr. Sirri has lived in Britain since 1984 and runs a center that acts as a public relations contact for Islamic fundamentalist groups. It recently circulated a statement by Mohammed Atef, third-ranking leader of bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network.

Mr. Sirri has declined to say how he obtained the statement.

He has been sentenced to death in Egypt, where security officials assert he was a top official in the military wing of Islamic Jihad, the terrorist group blamed for the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat and a series of assassination attempts in the 1990s.

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