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Friday, 22 February 2013
Birmingham plot: leader of suicide gang used gyms and charity shop to recruit cell

From the Telegraph

The leader of the Birmingham suicide gang used gyms, a charity shop and a mosque to recruit the rest of his terrorist cell.

In the back-to-back streets of Sparkhill in Birmingham, Irfan Naseer recruited at least eight others to join him in his attack on civilian and military targets in Britain.

Irfan Naseer first met his two co-defendants at premises known as the 24/7 Gym in 2007 and 2008 and then switched allegiance to the Darul Ihsaan [Place of Excellence] which was attended by four young men he sent to Pakistan for terrorist training in 2011.

Two brothers are involved with the gyms, one of whom has a conviction for possessing information useful for terrorism. Both gyms have moved around the inner city area of Sparkhill and cater for a largely Muslim clientele.

Fundamentalists seek out the gyms because they do not play music, ban women and offer halal body-building supplements.

Describing the 24/7 gym, then in Stoney Lane, Naseer said there was an area with some equipment, an area with sofas and a small prayer room. He said he used to go three or four times a week to pray and “chat to some people.”

The gym is now housed in a hangar-like warehouse on the Lime Grove industrial estate with row upon row of weight machines, a boxing ring and a cage-fighting arena. On a recent visit there were shelves of plastic tubs of supplements behind the counter and a notice on the door announcing that the gym was closed on Friday afternoons for Muslim prayers.

The Darul Ihsaan Gym, known locally as “Jimmy’s gym,” is housed in a two-storey warehouse off Baker Street, with a boxing and martial arts area on the ground floor and weights room and prayer area on the first floor.

Inside, the walls carry an inscription in Arabic and songs called Nasheeds were playing on the PA system. The gym has a website which advertises trekking and paintballing and says: “This centre was much needed in our local community, due to the disgraced state of the youth.

“They are losing their Islamic identity and moral foundations which is central to the teachings of Islam.” In its mission statement, it adds: “We offer to educate the youth and let them know how far they have strayed away from Islam i.e. inappropriate attitude, swearing, wearing of earrings and chains, non-Islamic hair styles and dresscode.”

Naseer said the brother of one of the young men and another man told him: “You know these four guys, they're our guys. You know they're part of the gym. You sent them. You didn't tell nobody. Abu Bakr is getting blamed for it.”

The cell even sought interpretation of one man’s dreams from two scholars at mosques in Birmingham about whether he should join their plotting. How much the preachers knew is not clear but none were arrested.

“If you join them you will go through hardship but you will be safe at the end,” one advised.

Posted on 02/22/2013 2:44 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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