Ateeque Sharifi: The final victim
His parents were killed by the Taliban. He fled Afghanistan for the safety of London. He was blown up by the bomb at King's Cross
Thursday 21 July 2005
At 21, he fled Kabul to find refuge in Britain, where he overcame his struggle to learn English and became a model student. In his spare time he worked in a pizza takeaway, sending most of his wages to his younger sister in Afghanistan.
But three years after fleeing the brutal regime of the Taliban to rebuild his life in his adoptive city, the young Muslim was to die in a suicide bombing car- ried out in the name of his faith.
Yesterday, almost two weeks after the London attacks in which 56 people died, including the bombers, the 24-year-old Afghan became the last victim to be formally identified.
Mr Sharifi, 24, who lived in Hounslow, west London, had attended West Thames College since September 2002, eight months after arriving in the UK, where he became one of the most popular students. As an inquest was opened into his death yesterday, Thalia Marriott, the college's principal, said: "The deep irony of this tragic event is that Ateeque had left Afghanistan to seek safety in the UK, only to find his fate at the hands of extremists here."
She described him as a "truly inspirational and popular student'' who was "destined for a bright future'' and said the college's staff and 7,000 pupils were deeply shocked and saddened by his death.
The President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, paid tribute to Mr Sharifi yesterday by placing flowers among the hundreds of personal tributes piling up in the garden square outside King's Cross station. He said: "The Afghan people share the pain of these families very, very much. Those who have committed these crimes are the enemies of all of us, all over the world. In Afghanistan, they have killed travellers, students, women and many innocent people."
Details of Mr Sharifi's death emerged as the hunt for the terror network behind the 7 July bombings continued. A British man who police want to question over the London bombings was reportedly arrested in Pakistan yesterday. In a separate development, the Government announced new powers to deport or exclude from Britain people who incite others to commit terrorist acts.
Mr Sharifi had been returning from spending a night with some friends when he was caught in the blast. His tutor, Harminder Ubhie, who teaches English as a second language at West Thames College, was in tears as she described her "model student". "He started learning English at a beginner level when he first arrived. He was a delight to have in the group," she said. "He was always present. He became one of my top IT students."
Ms Ubhie said that he had been something of an entertainer among his peers. "He was the joker of the group. He also always helped the new members of the group by showing them around the college, going out and helping them during the lessons. His fun-loving nature and hard work will never be forgotten."
Mr Sharifi had rented a room in a flat-share with three other Afghanis in Hounslow for the past year. To his flatmates, he was a sociable man who took pride in his appearance and was a great gym enthusiast with a diverse set of friends including Indian, Pakistani and English people. He had come to Britain without being able to speak a word of English but had made enormous strides in his adoptive country. He excelled in class, he was going to sit his driving test this month after failing once before, and he dreamt of getting married in Britain one day and eventually becoming a computer expert.
He would occasionally attend Friday prayers at a mosque but was a more regular face at a gym in nearby Hanwell. Mr Sharifi had managed to save enough money to buy himself a computer and was due to start a higher level IT course at the college in September.
Abdul Wahib, from the Afghan embassy in London, said that although Mr Sharifi had friends and some distant relatives in the UK, his close family were not in this country. He added that his body would be returned to Afghanistan for burial.
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