Two guilty of being al-Qa'ida members

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Two British Muslims were convicted today of being members of al-Qa'ida.

Taxi driver Habib Ahmed, 29, was caught in possession of two diaries which had details of top al-Qa'ida operatives written in invisible ink - described in court as a terrorist's contact book.

The diaries were given to him by co-defendant Rangzieb Ahmed, 33, who was part of a three-man active service cell on an unknown foreign mission.

Rangzieb Ahmed, no relation to Habib, was also found guilty of directing terrorism - the first person to be convicted of the offence in the UK.

Among the names and phone numbers in the diaries were al-Qa'ida's suspected former no 3, Hamza Rabia, Manchester Crown Court heard.

Habib Ahmed's wife, Mehreen Haji, 28, was cleared of two counts of arranging funding for the purposes of terrorism.

Her husband, from Cheetham Hill, north Manchester, was also found not guilty of attending a terrorist training camp in Pakistan in 2006.

The jury of seven women and five men found Habib guilty of al-Qa'ida membership on an 11-1 majority verdict.

He was also convicted of one count of professing to belong to al-Qa'ida when he gave an interview to the Sunday Times newspaper in 2002.

Rangzieb, of Fallowfield, south Manchester, was cleared of possessing a rucksack containing traces of explosives for the use of terrorism.

Both men, who showed no emotion as the verdicts were read, will be sentenced tomorrow.

Rangzieb travelled to Dubai from Pakistan via China in December 2005 and was set to fly out to South Africa as part of a "major activity" but the plans went awry when his boss, Hamza Rabia, was blown up in an explosion.

He then summoned Habib as back-up to collect three diaries and the pair returned separately to the UK shortly after.

Counter-terrorism officers from Greater Manchester Police were already monitoring the two men and bugged their hotel room in Dubai where they made several coded references to al-Qa'ida.

The surveillance continued in Manchester as a probe was put in the taxi of Street Cars employee Habib.

Rangzieb, of Barnston Avenue, returned to Pakistan in January 2006 to further his career as an international terrorist. By this time he was already a confessed member of another proscribed terror group, Harakat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM).

He was arrested by the Pakistani authorities in August that year over alleged links with al Qaida. His detention forced detectives to apprehend Habib before he went on the run.

Two of the invisible ink diaries were discovered at Habib's home following his arrest. The third book has never been recovered.

They appeared completely blank but contained names, phone numbers and email addresses of key al-Qa'ida figures.

The names of Mamoun Darkazanli, a suspected terrorist financier linked to the 2004 Madrid bombings, and Khalid Habib, a noted guerrilla fighter, were among those discovered.

Elsewhere in the books there were entries for Hotmail email addresses with attached passwords. These would then be used to access and pass information via draft messages on the account - without the need to send a traceable email.

Mitigation for Habib and Rangzieb ahead of their sentencing tomorrow will be heard in court this afternoon by Mr Justice Saunders.

Habib also faced eight charges that he possessed information gained from internet searches for the use of terrorism but he was convicted on only one count: a document on the explosives used in the 1994 bombing of an Israeli charity premises in Finchley, north London.