Four terror suspects free after 'rescue' from Africa
London Evening Standard | February 14, 2007
Four terror suspects were released on to Britain's streets hours after being rescued by the Government from execution overseas.
Suspected as Jihadists, the men had been interviewed by police.
The four, who are British citizens of North-African origin in their twenties, were seized on the Kenyan border with Somalia by special forces - possibly the SAS, who are known to be operating in the area.
They were reportedly trying to escape from Somalia where they were suspected of fighting in a Jihadi struggle with terrorists linked to Al Qaeda.
The suspects were handed over to the Kenyans, who deported them back to Somalia - where they faced the death penalty from authorities engaged in a violent power struggle with Islamic extremists.
But the men - named by Kenya as Mohammed Ezzouek, Hamza Chentouf, Shah Jehan Janjua and Fesal Afshar Zabequn - were plucked to safety by the Foreign Office consul.
At UK taxpayer's expense, they were flown to Kenya on a special charter flight and then to Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, on an RAF plane.
The four, whose families are believed to have sought sanctuary in the UK, were quizzed under the Terrorism Act by Scotland Yard police for more than eight hours.
But just before 4pm yesterday, they were told there was insufficient evidence to arrest them.
Whitehall sources said they would be kept under surveillance but they will not be placed under control orders, which would allow their movements to be restricted.
The men insist they are innocent, but officials in Kenya's capital Nairobi said none of the four had provided a 'credible' reason for being in Somalia.
Unemployed Ezzouek, 22, had told his mother he was in Egypt studying at a Koranic school. The decision to bring them back was met with bewilderment.
Tory homeland security spokesman Patrick Mercer said the Government was 'wishing another problem' upon Britain, adding: 'I just find it amazing that we bring back people apparently bent on Jihad. It really does beggar belief.
'These people will now certainly be another burden upon the taxpayer. But they have also been linked to terrorism overseas.
'We do not have the resources to cope with them. I would be very interested to hear from the Government why they have brought this problem back to our shores.'
The Foreign Office was contacted by the Somalian authorities after the men were deported from Kenya.
Diplomats tried to free them after their lawyer Louise Christian warned publicly they faced torture, arbitrary detention and execution.
Officials in Nairobi suspect some, if not all, were caught up with Somali Islamists accused by the U.S. of training Al Qaeda operatives.
The Britons are suspected by the Kenyans to have fought with Somalia's Islamic movement.
None of the Britons is said to have been armed when they were held by Kenyan police on January 20 as they stumbled out the bush at Kiunga, a fishing village, although one is believed to have been suffering from a bullet wound to the foot.
The Kenyans said they were trying to reach the tropical island of Lamu, part of an archipelago used by Al Qaeda supporters in the past.
The four were said to have been among 15 arrested men who claimed to have walked up to 300 miles from the Somali capital Mogadishu after Ethiopian troops drove Islamist forces from the city.
They were caught after fleeing U.S. airstrikes on a suspected terrorist hideout and an Al Qaeda commander in southern Somalia in January.
Several Britons are said to have been among those in the shelter when it was repeatedly hit by U.S. Special Forces AC-130 gunships at the remote village of Hayo, near the border with Kenya, and then by follow-up attacks on other targets by helicopters.
Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi had claimed several Britons were also killed, injured or captured with other foreign fighters during battles with his country's troops, who invaded Somalia in December to prevent an Islamic movement from ousting the weak government.
The SAS are patrolling the Kenyan border to trap terrorists fleeing American forces.
Ezzouek's mother Malaka said: 'He has done nothing wrong. My son is innocent. He is not an extremist.'
She said the family's London home near Paddington Green police station was raided by police, who removed a computer and photos of her son on holiday in Morocco.
She said he travelled to Egypt in September after she paid his airfare. Neighbours said he had become a devout Muslim about two years ago.
Chentouf is understood to live with his family in the Westbourne Park area of west London. Janjua, 22, is believed to be from Feltham, West London.
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