Scotland Yard and MI5 failed to act after they were allegedly warned by an informant, two years before the September 11 attacks in New York, that former imam Abu Hamza had turned Finsbury Park mosque into an “al-Qa'ida guesthouse”, it has been claimed.
Reda Hassaine claims that between 1999 and 2000 he was hired by MI5 to spy inside the north London mosque, but says the security agencies repeatedly ignored his warnings that Abu Hamza posed a threat, he told The Telegraph.
Mr Hassaine’s interview came after Hamza was convicted in a Manhattan court of assisting terrorist groups like al-Qa-ida, offering vindication to US government prosecutors and possible solace to victims of terrorist attacks.
In 1999, the Algerian allegedly warned MI5 that the mosque was used by Hamza, who had given himself the name Sheihk, as “an al-Qa'ida guesthouse in London” to radicalise young Muslims.
Mr Hassaine told the newspaper: “They were given money when they needed it and slowly pulled into the orbit of the other battle-hardened veterans who then worked out when a recruit was right for a trip overseas to a training camp.”
He added that when the men returned from wars overseas, Hamza would “finish brainwashing them”.
Mr Hassaine described how he was increasingly frustrated that Hamza was “emboldened”, but the security services “seemed incapable of putting it in its proper al-Qaeda context,” he told the newspaper.
“The mosque was becoming a transit point for international terrorists stopping off in London but also more worryingly for Britain, home-grown converts and would be terrorists,” Mr Hussaine believed.
Following revelations that Hamza held meetings with Scotland Yard and MI5, Mr Hassaine claimed that Hamza said in the mosque that he was “giving them [security agencies] minor things not harming jihadi’s fight against the West, with a laugh.”
While the security services viewed Hamza’s actions as “a little local skirmish by a clown,” Mr Hassaine explained Hamza was becoming like “the terrorist-in chief, more respected by his followers and operating with impunity from the police authorities I was informing.”
The newspaper was also shown a letter Mr Hassaine says he wrote to Hamza, in which he says Hamza behaved like a “chicken” by not pleading guilty at the Manhattan court, and accused Hamza of using Islam as “cover” to orchestrate terrorist activities.
“I will not forget the thousands of Algerians who lost their lives whilst you revelled in their deaths. I was there to hear you with my own ears and my own eyes when you claimed the deaths of those who died in the Bentalha massacre from the pulpit at Finsbury Park mosque,” he wrote.
Security sources told The Telegraph that they dispute Mr Hassaine’s account, and maintain that they warned Hamza that he faced arrest if his actions ever met the criminal threshold.