Officials confirm British Muslim is held in Kandahar

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The Independent Online

The Foreign Office Office has confirmed that a black Muslim convert is the fifth Briton being held by the Americans on suspicion of fighting with Taliban and al-Qa'ida troops in Afghanistan.

Jamal Udeen, 35, from Manchester, who also calls himself Jamal Al-Harith or Harath, is being held in Kandahar after he was found there with four other foreigners in a Taliban jail.

He is in custody with Ruhal Ahmed, 20, one of three detainees from Tipton in the West Midlands. Mr Ahmed and Mr Udeen, a website designer, have been interviewed by British intelligence officers. They may be taken to Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Three Britons are already at the base in Cuba, the Foreign Office confirmed last week. They are Shafiq Rasul, 24, a former law student, and Asif Iqbal, 20, both from Tipton, and Feroz Abbasi, 22, a college drop-out from Croydon, south London. Another Tipton man, Munir Ali, is believed to be missing in Afghanistan.

Mr Udeen, who is said to have converted to Islam eight years ago and is thought to be of African descent, has said he was arrested, beaten and jailed by the Taliban as a suspected spy after he was caught travelling through Afghanistan in a lorry, on his way from Quetta in Pakistan to Turkey, soon after the 11 September attacks. He said he was trying to return to Europe after working for a Muslim evangelical group in Pakistan, and had paid the lorry driver 4,000 rupees (£58) to carry him.

He said he was pictured in newspapers when Pashtun tribal forces liberated the city in December. Once Kandahar fell, he was ordered to stay in the prison for his own safety. He was passed to the Americans, who did not believe his story.

Mr Udeen was interviewed by MI6 officers in December.He has complained that the British Government has made no attempt to repatriate him, despite knowing about his predicament for four weeks. British diplomats have described his story as "weird" and not very credible.

In a newspaper interview, Mr Udeen said he had once harboured "good thoughts" about the Taliban but that he knew nothing about al-Qa'ida beyond what he had read in newspapers and on the internet.

He added: "I haven't committed a crime."