Britain became a happy hunting ground for Al-Qaeda in the 1990s as it used mosques and so-called “Islamic” centres to recruit “jihadis” many of whom ended up in Guantánamo Bay after being captured in Afghanistan by American forces after the country's invasion in 2001, according to leaked secret American documents. Some were arrested in Pakistan and handed over to American authorities.

At least 35 Guantánamo Bay prisoners, mostly from North Africa and West Asia, reportedly claimed they were radicalised in Britain before being sent to Al-Qaeda terror camps in Afghanistan. Most of them came to Britain as economic migrants but fell under the spell of radical preachers who incited them against the West by showing videos of “atrocities” committed against Muslims in places like Chechnya and Bosnia. Four mosques in London are identified as places where vulnerable young Muslims were brainwashed and turned into potential terrorists. These include the controversial Finsbury Park mosque in London which is described as a “haven for Islamic extremists from Morocco and Algeria”. Two radical preachers — Egypt-born Abu Hamza al-Masri and Jordanian Abu Qatada — are named as Al-Qaeda's key recruiters. Both are serving prison sentences in Britain.

Hamza, who controlled the Finsbury Park mosque and is described as the second-in-command of Al-Qaeda's London cell, “espoused hatred towards Western civilisation ...and encouraged his followers to murder non-Muslims”, according to the documents published by The Daily Telegraph, which they obtained from the WikiLeaks website.

Abu Qatada is described as Osama bin Laden's “ambassador to Europe” and “a focal point for extremist fundraising, recruitment and propaganda”.

The documents which form part of more than 700 leaked files on the Guantánamo Bay prisoners written by American military commanders who interrogated the prisoners. The Telegraph said they “illustrate how for two decades, Britain effectively became a crucible of terrorism, with dozens of extremists, home-grown and from abroad, radicalised here”.

More In: International | News