Londoner named as Al-Qaeda ‘banker’
Accounts frozen as suspect accused over terror pipeline THE British and American governments have named a key Al-Qaeda suspect in Britain as one of the terror group’s alleged bankers.
Mohammed al-Ghabra, whose bank accounts have been frozen by the Bank of England, last week denied any involvement in terrorism. He admitted he had “radical views” and said he was an active supporter of Respect, the anti-war party led by George Galloway, the maverick former Labour MP.
The American government has issued a statement “designating” al-Ghabra, who lives in east London, as someone “who provides material and logistical support to Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organisations”.
The Americans and British intelligence officials allege in official documents that al-Ghabra, 26, is a key organiser in the international “pipeline” that sends terrorists from Britain to fight coalition troops in Iraq.
Al-Ghabra, a naturalised British citizen who was born in Syria, received a letter from the Treasury last month telling him: “The Treasury has reasonable grounds for suspecting that you are, or may be, a person who facilitates the commission of acts of terrorism.”
Speaking at his home in Forest Gate, al-Ghabra said MI5 had repeatedly accused him in interviews with his friends of being a terrorist “moneymaker”. He said: “If I am the moneymaker and this is why they have decided to put the sanctions against me, how could I have so many financial problems myself?”
In its statement, issued after his bank accounts were frozen, the US Treasury said: “Al-Ghabra has organised travel to Pakistan for individuals seeking to meet senior Al-Qaeda individuals and to undertake jihad training. “Several of these individuals have returned to the UK to engage in covert activity on behalf of Al-Qaeda. Additionally, al-Ghabra has provided material support and facilitated the travel of UK-based individuals to Iraq to support the insurgents’ fight against coalition forces.”
Last month his home, a two-storey maisonette where he lives with his mother and sister, was raided by Scotland Yard’s counterterrorist command. According to the search warrant, detectives were looking for “explosives, precursor chemicals, weapons, component parts of weapons or improvised explosive devices”.
They were also looking for “documentation, maps, plans or any other data giving details of possible targets/venues subject to terrorist attack”. MI5 has apparently targeted al-Ghabra while conducting an investigation into the so-called “pipeline” that is fuelling the terrorist insurgency in Iraq.
The flow of young Muslim men from Europe to Iraq has increased in the past three years. The “pipeline” of suspected terrorists is being fuelled by growing resentment about American and British policy and scandals such as the maltreatment of inmates at Abu Ghraib prison.
Al-Ghabra says that MI5 is simply wrong to connect him to any of this. “I don’t have the capability of supporting anyone financially, barely myself . . . If anyone has the evidence, please show it to me. I am not the banker.” He was charged with fraud and possession of a document or record that could be useful to terrorism and spent nine months in Belmarsh high-security prison in south London before being acquitted by a jury in 2004.
He says he is an active member of the Muslim Prisoner Support group, which campaigns for the rights of suspected Islamic terrorists. The group’s website says he was a speaker at a demonstration it held outside Belmarsh last October.