A Muslim man from Manchester yesterday became the first ever Briton to be convicted of directing terrorism.
Rangzieb Ahmed, 33, travelled to Dubai from Pakistan as part of a three-man al-Qa'ida cell in December 2005 and was set to fly out to South Africa as part of a "major activity". But the plans went awry when his boss, Hamza Rabia – al-Qa'ida's suspected former third-in-command – was killed by an air strike in Pakistan. Ahmed was apparently considered so important within the organisation that he then summoned another British man, Habib Ahmed, 29, to the Middle East to carry incriminating diaries containing details of top al-Qa'ida operatives that were written in invisible ink. Among the details in the diaries – which were described in court during the 11-week trial as a terrorist's contact book – were those of Hamza Rabia, Mamoun Darkazanli, a suspected terrorist financier linked to the 2004 Madrid bombings, and Khalid Habib, a noted guerrilla fighter.
Counter-terrorism officers from Greater Manchester Police were already monitoring the two men and bugged their hotel room in Dubai, where they made several coded references to al-Qa'ida.
Habib Ahmed, a taxi driver from Cheetham Hill, north Manchester, was convicted of one count of professing to belong to al-Qa'ida but was cleared of attending a terrorist training camp. His wife, Mehreen Haji, 28, was cleared of two counts of arranging funding for the purposes of terrorism.
Rangzieb Ahmed, of Fallowfield, south Manchester, was cleared of possessing a rucksack containing traces of explosives for the use of terrorism, but convicted of directing terrorism.
Detective Chief Superintendent Tony Porter, head of Greater Manchester's counter-terrorism unit, said: "Rangzieb Ahmed is a very dangerous man. He consorts with senior terrorist figures and has devoted his life to creating and working with terrorist networks. We believe that he was intent on masterminding terrorist attacks and would have considered mass murder part of his duty.
"What we do know is that he and Habib Ahmed had close contact with al-Qa'ida's senior figures and were arranging for British citizens to visit terrorist camps and meet those willing to fund terrorism."
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