Kim Sengupta: We let radical groups settle in our midst – so this is no surprise

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The reports of British Muslims in Afghanistan is, in many ways, a natural progression in the march of the global Islamist jihad and should not come as a surprise.

It was, after all, the West, with the UK and US playing leading roles, which helped create the Muslim international brigade sent to fight the Russians in Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden was encouraged to spend his family's money there by the Saudis who funded most of that particular jihad, and, in the turmoil that followed, the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, propelled the Taliban into power.

The Islamist fighters went back to their respective countries, Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan etc, and some returned to their ordinary lives. Others went on to raise the banner of fundamentalism and some of them have returned to Afghanistan to fight the latest batch of infidels. The most well-known of these returnees is, of course, Bin Laden who went to fight against the Russians in Afghanistan in 1979. In 1990, he was back in Saudi Arabia as a hero, but, two years later, he fell out with the government and moved to Sudan. In 1996, he was forced to leave and returned to Afghanistan to join forces with the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar.

Egyptian-born Abu Hamza al-Masri had always claimed that he had lost his hands and an eye fighting the Russians in Afghanistan. Afterwards, he lived in Britain and Egypt. During that time, it is believed, he also visited militant training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Associates say his injuries were caused at an al-Qa'ida training camp in Afghanistan in a nitroglycerine accident

The UK had allowed some of these Islamists, of various nationalities, to settle in the country. The official explanation was that having the Islamist groups here would allow the security agencies to infiltrate and monitor them. Foreign governments repeatedly complained that acts of terrorism were committed by Islamist groups based in the UK. Mosque after mosque weas taken over in Britain, with moderate mainstream Muslims driven out.

When Muslim communities complained that they were being intimidated out of their mosques and positions of influence, the authorities turned a deaf ear, dismissing this as internal ethnic bickering they had no wish to get involved in.

The 7/7 bombings and the slew of other terrorist plots that followed showed that the security agencies had failed to monitor what they were up to. And the attacks were being planned by young British Muslims indoctrinated in the mosques taken over by extremists because the authorities had refused to protect the moderates.

We are now well aware that the jihadists are prepared to attack on targets in this country. So there is no reason why they should not do so abroad, especially as there are so many opportunities to train and deploy from across the border in Pakistan the state with which most of them have intrinsic family ties.

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