He was duped, says father of British captive held in Cuba

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The Independent Online

The father of a British Muslim held by the US in Camp X-Ray has spoken for the first time and revealed his fears that his son went to Afghanistan in the first days of the war.

Mohammed Iqbal, from Tipton, in the West Midlands, speaking after his son Asif Iqbal was revealed to be one of five British prisoners at the camp in Cuba, rejected allegations that his son was an Islamic extremist or a supporter of Osama bin Laden.

Speaking through an interpreter, Mr Iqbal told The Independent on Sunday that he feared that Asif, 20, had been "suckered" into going to Afghanistan after he travelled to Pakistan late last September to meet a prospective bride. He disappeared about a week later.

Asif, a night-shift worker at a Hayes Express depot, is one of three Tipton men discovered by US forces in December among thousands of Taliban prisoners held at the squalid prison in Shebarghan in north Afghanistan.

He is being held at the US naval base in Guatanamo Bay with Shafiq Rasul, 24, and with another British suspect from Croydon, south London, called Feroz Abbasi, 22. The third man from Tipton, Ruhal Ahmed, 20, is being held at a US airbase in Kandahar, awaiting transfer to Cuba.

The arrest of three Muslims from the same Midlands town has provoked suspicions that they conspired to join the pro-Taliban forces in Afghanistan before leaving Tipton.

Muslim activists believe young Westernised Pakistanis reacted emotionally to the plight of ordinary Afghan civilians. Mr Iqbal vehemently denied claims that his son was a violent extremist, although he did sometimes visit a small Tipton mosque which has been accused of having links with Islamic fundamentalists. Asif, he said, preferred snooker and football to politics and has a white half-sister. ns being bombed by the US.

"He didn't go out very often," said Mr Iqbal. Asif does, however, have a conviction for violent disorder for assaulting another Pakistani youth in an incident described by police as a minor gang fight in Dudley. Mr Iqbal said his son had "started to be more obedient and respectful of the family's needs".

Before the 11 September attacks, his parents flew to their village in Pakistan and found a possible match. In late September, he joined his father in the village near Faislabad.

A few days later – around the same day that the US bombing of Afghanistan began – he visited Karachi, Pakistan's largest city. Mr Iqbal, 68, kept his son's passport for safety.

Several days on, Asif rang his father. "There was a lot of rioting going on, and a lot of demonstrations. He said, it's not very nice here so I'm coming back. That was the last I heard from my son."

Mr Iqbal was advised not to travel to Karachi to search for him because of violence there, but his fears about the lure of Afghanistan grew.

"I was very worried about him getting suckered into that; the boy had no experience of that before," he said."He's a British citizen, and it's the responsibility of the British government to bring him back."

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