Hundreds more Britons could become suicide bombers, warns Islamic leader

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The chairman of the London mosque attended by the man alleged to have tried to blow up an American airline with explosives hidden in his shoes warned yesterday that there were hundreds more suicide bombers like him in Britain.

Abdul Haqq Baker, the chairman of Brixton Mosque, where the alleged "shoe-bomber" Richard Reid worshipped for three years, condemned extremism, but warned of "worse to come" as hardliners recruited among disaffected youths.

Mr Reid, 28, is being held in Boston, where the American Airlines plane he boarded in Paris was diverted after he allegedly tried to light explosives concealed in his shoes. After converting to Islam in prison, Mr Reid joined the moderate Brixton Mosque to learn more about the religion, but became drawn to more radical elements in the area.

Speaking outside the mosque yesterday, Mr Baker, 35, said that extremists found fertile ground among young Muslims, who were rejectingestablished the Islamic leaders' message of tolerance. "The majority are very impressionable," he said. "They like the fiery rhetoric, and they like to hear that they are in a country of infidels.

"Those propagating extreme views are relatively few, but in the last four or five years we have witnessed that number grow quite frighteningly. They prey on those who are new to Islam, those whose view of Islam is not that advanced, and those who are quite weak in their character."

Mr Reid worshipped at Brixton Mosque at the same time as Zacarias Moussaoui, who has been charged in America with conspiracy over the 11 September attacks. Mr Baker believes Mr Reid may have had contacts with radical London mosques, including the Finsbury Park base of the cleric Abu Hamza.

Mr Hamza denied knowing Mr Reid, and attacked Mr Baker's version of Islam. "We don't preach half-baked Islam which pleases the West. Islam is a religion of its own," he said.

Scotland Yard refused to comment yesterday beyond saying that its officers were liasing with the FBI.