Moazzam Begg: Guantanamo detainee's 20-year link with extremists


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The Independent Online

Moazzam Begg has been linked with Islamic extremists for more than 20 years.

During a holiday to Pakistan in 1993, he met veterans of the war against Russia in Afghanistan and took them up on an offer to visit training camps in Afghanistan. He would later describe the experience as “life changing.”

On his return, he became involved with the plight of Muslims in Bosnia, and went on a number of aid convoys, as well as spending time at a training camp for foreign fighters.

By his late 20s he was married and a devout Muslim. In 1998 he lived in Pakistan before returning to Birmingham and opening an Islamic book and video store.

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In 1999, “UK authorities had a number of UK-based extremists under investigation, including Moazzem Begg,” according to a CIA document quoted in the US Senate Intelligence Committee Report released this week. It adds: “The Maktabah al-Ansar bookshop he ran in Birmingham was described as a ‘known jihadist gathering place’.”

A year later, special branch and MI5 officers raided the shop, and Mr Begg was arrested but released without charge.

By 2001, he was living with his wife and children in Afghanistan. After the fall of the Taliban the family fled to Pakistan, where Mr Begg was arrested in 2002. He was handed over to the US authorities and kept prisoner in Bagram, Afghanistan, before being sent to Guantanamo Bay.


After his release – without charge – in 2005, he returned to Britain where he was questioned by counter-terrorism officers, but released without charge. In 2010, Mr Begg wrote: “I remember very well when I was held... that British intelligence services were present at every leg of that journey. I knew one of them from the UK because he’d visited my house in Birmingham.”

Earlier this year Mr Begg  was arrested on a series of terror charges, including possessing a document for the purposes of terrorism funding and training, and attending a terrorism training camp in Syria. But the case was dropped when it emerged he had kept MI5 informed of his activities in Syria.