Al-Qa'ida planning fuel truck attacks on London, warns US

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The Independent Online

The US has warned that al-Qa'ida is planning to cause mass casualties with a series of attacks on petrol stations in London and American cities in the next few weeks.

The leaked intelligence report from the Department of Homeland Security is highly specific. It says suicide drivers "will employ various types of fuel trucks as vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices in an effort to cause mass casualties ... before September 19".

The memo names New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and London as target cities and adds: "The stated goal is the collapse of the US economy." The Department of Transport has also recently ordered a tightening of security around the UK's road tanker fleet.

The intelligence briefing says the terrorists' aim may be to mark the fourth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. However, in the US, the FBI questioned the reliability of the information.

But as UK authorities hunt down cells that may be planning such operations, a senior Muslim cleric has said that radical preachers such as Omar Bakri Mohammed should have been expelled from Britain "years ago" for advocating violence.

Abu Khadeejah, a prominent Muslim scholar in Birmingham, accused militants in Britain of trying to "shroud" the murder of innocent people by wrongly using verses from the Koran.

Speaking at a two-day conference in Birmingham, called Orthodox Islam's War on Terror, he said it was vital to educate young Muslims that suicide bombing was not a glorious death but a theological perversion.

He described Bakri, other radical preachers such as Abu Qatada, and Muslim dissidents behind websites that glorify al-Qa'ida attacks, such as Muhammed al-Massari, as irresponsible. "They should have been deported from England many years ago and there's a doubt as to whether they should have been allowed into the UK in the first place," he said. "These individuals were allowed to call for the burning down of sovereign states, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan."

His remarks come as ministers prepare a crackdown on radical clerics and militant groups such as the now-disbanded al-Muhajiroun after last month's terror attacks in London. Bakri, a founder of al-Muhajiroun, fled Britain earlier this month as it emerged that law officers were considering charging him with treason for advocating attacks on British troops.

Abu Khadeejah is a leading member of the conservative, highly orthodox Salafi tradition of Islam in the west Midlands area, and has repeatedly attacked radical hardline groups such as al-Muhajiroun, which split earlier this year into two other groups.

He said such groups had been preying on young Muslims to spread a cult-like message of hate based on politics rather than religion. Groups like it had corrupted the concept of jihad, or holy struggle. "The issue of killing yourself has never been part of jihad in 1,400 years of Islamic history ­ killing yourself as a means of warfare is a 20th-century phenomenon.

"The solution is to educate people that integration in British society does not equal selling out your religion."

Another speaker, Amjad Rafiq, said: "We have been warning against these people for 10-15 years ... These ideologies have to be rooted out ­ they are alien to Islam and they are inherently evil."