Family of Scot arrested in Pakistan denies claim he fought for Taliban

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The Independent Online

The mother of a British man held in Pakistan on suspicion of fighting for the Taliban in Afghanistan contacted the Foreign Office yesterday for news of her son.

James McLintock, 37, originally from Dundee, was arrested two weeks ago close to a training camp run by the al-Qa'ida network.

Relatives claim that far from being a terrorist, the father of five is a charity worker who was handing out aid to refugees.

His mother, Margaret, a former teacher and Amnesty International activist, who lives in Arbroath with her husband, Dr Iain McLintock, a lecturer at Dundee University, telephoned the Foreign Office yesterday. But government officials and British intelligence agencies are still waiting for information from the Pakistani authorities who are questioning him and have yet to allow the British consular access.

Mr McLintock is reported to have been arrested in the remote border region of North Waziristan, south of the Taliban's hide-out in the Tora Bora mountain range.

He was educated at Dundee's Roman Catholic Lawside Academy before studying zoology at Dundee University, where he dropped out after suffering mental illness.

Mr McLintock converted to Islam during the Eighties and changed his name to Yaqub Mohammed. He moved to Bradford in the mid-Nineties, where he grew a long beard and began dressing in Arab robes.

In 1995 he married Shaffia Begum. The newlyweds, who were introduced by religious elders at a mosque, rented a terrace house in Bradford's Heaton district for two years.

What followed is disputed. Dr Rasjid Skinner, a consultant psychologist who met Mr McLintock 10 years ago, said it was widely known he had fought in Afghanistan with the mujahedin, and he was thought to have volunteered to serve with Muslims in Bosnia.

But his wife's family have said he moved to Karachi in Pakistan two years ago to do charity work and had probably been arrested because he looked like a foreigner.

His wife's brother, Abbas Mohammed, is reported to have said: "He does not have extreme views and has a wife and five children all younger than six. He would not go off to fight and do something stupid while leaving them on their own. With his responsibilities and the kind of person he is, he would not run off and fight.

"He is not al-Qa'ida or Taliban and does not have an extreme background."

Mr Mohammed said his sister and brother-in-law moved to Pakistan partly because Mr McLintock wanted their children to learn Urdu and go to Islamic schools. But his arrest in such a sensitive region nearly 1,000 miles from Karachi at a time when the Americans and anti-Taliban forces were attacking the Tora Bora region is considered suspicious.

Security agencies, including MI5, have been investigating the background of a small number of people, probably about 20, with British passports arrested in Afghanistan and the surrounding region to discover whether they had been fighting alongside the Islamic extremists. Several are thought to be using stolen or forged passports of innocent British citizens.

Security agencies had thought about 200 Britons had travelled to Afghanistan to fight with the Taliban, but now believe far fewer were involved.