Posted on February 6, 2012

Radical Muslims ‘Target Young Inmates in Prison’

Martin Evans and Duncan Gardham, Telegraph (London), February 6, 2012

Despite being sent to maximum security jails, extremists are preaching hate to new inmates, breeding a fresh generation of radicals willing to launch terror attacks.

A nine-month inquiry by the home affairs select committee into the roots of violent radicalisation found that, in some cases, inmates were being persuaded to carry out suicide missions within days of entering prison.

The findings are published as four radical Islamists are due to be sentenced for plotting a major terror attack before Christmas on the London Stock Exchange, the London Eye and other important landmarks.

Mohammed Chowdhury, 21, Shah Rahman, 28, Abdul Miah, 25, and Gurukanth Desai, 30, will be sentenced at Woolwich Crown Court today for the Mumbai-style terror plot. It is believed Miah was radicalised in prison after being sentenced for drugs and weapons offences.

A former neighbour of his in Cardiff said he had “gone into prison as a petty criminal and came out spouting extremist views”.

Today’s report, “Roots of Radicalisation”, identified prisons as one of the major breeding grounds for terrorism-related extremism.

It also recognised the dangers posed by the internet and the role played by universities, where it was claimed radical preachers were often invited to speak without being “robustly challenged”.

In compiling their report, MPs visited the maximum security Belmarsh Prison in south-east London, which detains some of the most dangerous extremists in the country and where 20 per cent of inmates are Muslim.

They said staff at Belmarsh, which currently houses more than 30 terrorist prisoners, believed extremist views were “widely disseminated” among Muslim inmates.

The report found that while staff kept a record of who associated with terrorist prisoners, they intervened only if an individual presented “challenging behaviour”.

One inmate sent to Belmarsh on remand was persuaded to undertake a martyrdom mission within 72 hours of arriving. The unnamed individual was housed three cells away from the radical Jamaican-born preacher Abdullah al-Faisal who convinced him to become a suicide bomber within three days.

The report stated: “He left prison [and] went straight to Yemen desperately looking for jihad, desperately seeking a training camp. Fortunately, the handlers there in Yemen channelled him into an appropriate kind of madrassa… who taught him the correct understanding and sent him back to us.”

MPs also spoke to radical preacher Abu Hamza, who is detained in Belmarsh as he fights extradition to the US on terror charges. Hamza denied that his sermons contributed to radicalisation, telling the MPs he believed “it was enough for people to watch the news to be radicalised”. He claimed that prisoners turned to extremism because of a combination of “grievance, guilt and capability”.

According to the report, Hamza claimed: “Grievances were driven by British foreign policy, relating to Palestine and Afghanistan, and a sense that the Prophet [Mohammed] was being mocked.”

Some 20 per cent of the inmates in Belmarsh are Muslim, compared with 12 per cent across the prison population.

Michael Spurr, of the National Offender Management Service, told the committee they had “some evidence of individual prisoners who may have attempted to say things or have indicated views that could attract people to a radical cause” but no evidence it was on the increase.

However, Phil Wragg, the governor of Belmarsh, warned MPs that more needed to be done to share information about prisoners once they had been released.

The report stated: “Good aftercare [would ensure] prisoners who may have been vulnerable to violent extremist ideology in prison can make the transition safely into the community.”