- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 8, 2002

LONDON — Extremist Muslim clerics will meet in London on September 11 to celebrate the anniversary of al Qaedas attacks on the United States and to announce the creation of an organization for Islamic militants.

The conference, which will be attended by the most radical mullahs in Britain, will argue that the atrocities were justified because Muslims must defend themselves against armed aggression. It will also open the Islamic Council of Britain (ICB), which will aim to implement Shariah (Islamic law) in Britain and will welcome al Qaeda sympathizers as members.

"The people at this conference look at September 11 like a battle, as a great achievement by the mujahideen against the evil superpower," said Omar Bakri Mohammed, whose al-Muhajiroun group wants to establish a worldwide Islamic state. "I never praised September 11 after it happened, but now I can see why they did it."

The conference, to be held at Finsbury Park mosque in north London, will be attended by followers of militant groups and chaired by their Muslim leaders, including Mr. Mohammed.

Mr. Mohammed, 44, who was born in Syria and lives in London, has been investigated by Scotland Yards anti-terrorist squad for anti-Semitic statements.

Mr. Mohammed, who is entitled to stay in Britain although his 1980s claim for asylum failed, said that he would not stop al Qaeda members from joining the ICB. "We dont perceive them as the U.S. perceives them; we see them as a sincere, devoted people who stood firm against the invasion of a Muslim country."

Abu Hamza al-Masri, a cleric at the Finsbury Park mosque, will co-chair the conference. Several suspected al Qaeda members have been linked to his group, Supporters of Shariah, and the FBI is seeking his extradition for purportedly trying to set up a terrorist training camp in the United States.

Mr. al-Masri, an Egyptian who lost both hands and an eye while fighting in Afghanistan against the Soviet occupation, is also wanted in Yemen on terrorist charges.

Other radical Muslims speaking at the conference include Yasser al-Siri, 40, an Egyptian-born dissident who arrived in Britain in 1993 and claimed political asylum. He was released from custody in July after extradition proceedings by the United States were dropped because of insufficient evidence. Mr. Siri has been sentenced to death in Egypt for a bombing that killed a 12-year-old girl.

Imran Waheed, the British representative of Hizb ut-Tahrir — the Islamic Liberation Party — a group banned in a number of Muslim countries, and Anjem Choudary, a British-born lawyer who is chairman of the Society of Muslim Lawyers and a leader of al-Muhajiroun, will also attend.

The clerics claim that the ICB is funded by Saudi-based businessmen. The Saudi government expelled Mr. Mohammed in 1986 and recently began a multimillion-dollar public relations campaign to convince the United States that it is rooting out Islamic militants.

Al-Muhajiroun says it has secured a six-figure sum for funding the ICB and says it would build a dozen Islamic centers, create a Web site and hold seminars and classes for Muslims.

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