Radical Muslim with middle class roots

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The Independent Online

The Muslim cleric Abu Hamza was appearing before magistrates today after being arrested in an early morning raid on an extradition warrant issued by the US government.

The Muslim cleric Abu Hamza was appearing before magistrates today after being arrested in an early morning raid on an extradition warrant issued by the US government.

* Sheikh Abu Hamza was born Mustafa Kamel Mustafa in Alexandria, Egypt, to middle-class parents.

* He came to the UK in the early 1980s with plans to study to become a civil engineer in Brighton.

* In 1981 while studying in Brighton and working as a bouncer in London's West End, he met and married an English woman, Valerie Fleming, and received his British citizenship.

* The couple divorced a number of years later and Hamza travelled to Afghanistan to fight a 'jihad' against the Soviet occupation.

* While there he suffered injuries to his hands and eye - which make him such a distinctive figure. Hamza said they were received clearing Soviet landmines.

* On returning to the UK, Hamza began preaching at the Finsbury Park mosque in north London, where his radical anti-Western sermons attracted extremist Muslims.

* The security services are believed to have begun taking a close interest in his activities there and the mosque was later linked to al Qaida terrorists who took part in the September 11 attacks.

* In February 1999, he was linked to terrorists on trial in the Yemen accused of kidnapping Westerners. Yemen claimed he was behind a planned terror campaign and said it wanted him extradited.

* Hamza was later arrested and questioned by Scotland Yard detectives on suspicion of terrorism offences in Yemen.

* He was held for several days before being released without charge. He always maintained his innocence.

* Following the September 11 attacks on the US, Hamza's comments in support of Osama bin Laden sparked outrage.

* In April 2002, Hamza was formally suspended by the Charity Commission from his position at a London mosque over his inflammatory speeches.

* On September 11, 2002 - the first anniversary for the Twin Tower attacks - Hamza spoke at a controversial conference at the mosque entitled, A Towering Day in History.

* In January last year, armed police arrested seven people at the mosque in a dawn raid. A stun gun, replica firearm and CS gas canister were among the items seized.

* With his mosque closed, Hamza began leading worshippers in prayers, and delivering his sermons, outside on the pavement.

* In February 2003, Hamza sparked outrage by describing the Colombia space shuttle as a "Trinity of evil" as it had Christians, Hindus and a Jewish person aboard. He described its destruction as a punishment from Allah.

* In April 2003, David Blunkett announced new laws allowing British citizenship to be removed from immigrants who "seriously prejudice" the UK's interests. Legal moves began immediately to strip Hamza of his British citizenship and deport him to the Yemen.

* Two weeks later, on April 18, 2003, Hamza's lawyers revealed he was to appeal against the move.

* Last month that fight began, but a full hearing by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission was not due to take place until January 10, 2005.