Top UK preacher arrested in anti-radical swoop

2014-09-26 07:39

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London - British  police on Thursday arrested nine men including leading radical preacher Anjem Choudary in London on suspicion of links to the banned extremist group Al-Muhajiroun.

The arrests "are part of an ongoing investigation into Islamist-related terrorism and are not in response to any immediate public safety risk", Scotland Yard said.

Police said they were also searching 18 residential and commercial properties in London and one in Stoke-on-Trent, central England.

Al-Muhajiroun aims to overthrow the British government and replace it with an Islamic state before establishing a global Islamic caliphate, according to the London-based International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence.

The organisation was last banned in Britain under the Terrorism Act in 2010 although it has been proscribed in the past only to re-appear again under different names - as in the wake of the bombings in London on 7 July 2005.

Choudary is a co-founder of the group along with Omar Bakri Mohammed, who is serving a prison sentence in Lebanon for terrorism.

A 47-year-old former lawyer, Choudary regularly makes controversial statements on sensitive issues of national security that are picked up by British tabloids but he has been careful to stay on the right side of criminal law.

One of his most controversial acts was staging an anti-Western march through Wootton Bassett at a time when the town was known for honouring British soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

Al-Muhajiroun has also celebrated those responsible for the 9/11 attacks on the United States as "the Magnificent 19".

The preacher, who is of Pakistani descent, has said he does not "feel sorry" for British hostage Alan Henning, who is being held by ISIS fighters, because he is not a Muslim, and has called ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi the "prince of believers".

Anti-extremism campaigners Hope Not Hate welcomed the arrests.

"For over a year... we've been saying that more must be done to curb this hate-supporting and recruiting organisation," said Nick Lowles, the group's chief executive.

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