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Friends defend London terror suspects as police reveal fifth arrest

Group portrayed their friends as football loving students who were not aligned with any form of extremism.

The Guardian Reports (Source Link) :- Friends of the four men arrested as part of an alleged Islamist terror plot have hit back at claims that the detained men were plotting to attack Britain – as police announced they had made a fifth arrest that they had kept secret.

Counter-terrorism police arrested four men on Tuesday and on Thursday announced that for “operational reasons” they did not announce they had at the same time arrested a fifth man aged 20.

The four men, aged 20 and 21, were friends with one another having attended the City of Westminster school in Victoria, London. They share an interest in football.

A friend of Tarik Hassane, the medical student who was tasered in the raid in west London, said he had a “magnetic” personality and as a child had set up a prayer group on the roof of his school attended by Muslims, Hindus and Christians.

Detectives were given permission to hold the men for further questioning, and investigations into the four continued following their arrests in London in a joint operation by Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism command and the security service MI5.

The arrests come amid mounting concern at the highest levels of Britain’s security establishment that there is an increasing risk of a terrorist attack being staged by those connected to Syria or Iraq. Investigators believe one of the five men may have links to Syria and Islamic State (Isis).

On Thursday friends of the four men denounced media coverage and portray those arrested as football-loving students who were not aligned with any form of extremism.

Hassane and Gusai Abuzeid, who studied at the Greenwich School of Management, were two of those seized as armed police acted on what security officials believed were the early stages of a potentially significant terror plot.

Hassane and Abuzeid both attended the same school and played for the same west London youth football team. Two of the others arrested also attended the same school at different times and the four had remained friends.

One friend of Hassane said he believed the student, who had gone to Sudan to study medicine, was innocent.

Wilson Weaver, 20, who describes himself as a practising Christian, told the Guardian he had known Hassane from school since the age of 11 and his friend had never said anything suggesting he supported violence.

Weaver, an English literature student at Liverpool university, said Hassane was a model citizen who had risen from a humble background to be training for a career as a doctor. “He’s always been a smart kid, he was named the surgeon at school because he wanted to be a doctor since the age of 11,” he said. “Ever since I’ve known him he’s been a Muslim and devout.

“I am prepared to go out on a limb, in the face of the newspapers lies and misrepresentations. There is nothing in him for me to believe he is a terrorist.

“I’ve not heard anyone say he’s become more extreme.”

Wilson dismissed reports Hassane had come to Britain via Somalia and said he came to London to be with his family over the Muslim festival of Eid.

Wilson added: “He was pro-British.

“It is an indictment of Britain that a white person has to stand up for an Arab. It is truly depressing he has been arrested.”

Counter-terrorism officials feared one of the group may have had access to weapons and this was reflected by the fact armed officers led the raid on his address.

The Metropolitan police said officers from its counter-terrorism command had arrested the four “on suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism”.

Andrew Scott, 20, a friend of Hassane and Abuzeid for nearly a decade, said: “Gusai was a laugh and a joke to be around. Loved his football. Hard-working. He never had his heart in the wrong place.”

“Both him and Tarik had morals, and their morals were never wrong. Simple as that. Both had the correct morals: anti-violence. As far as I know, both never got into trouble.”

Referring to a tweet apparently posted by Hassane that said, “Oi lads … I smell war,” Scott said: “Anyone who knows Tarik Hassane knows his tweets were jokes, that goes with his personality.”

Another student friend, an investment banking intern, said Abuzeid was the “furthest thing from an extremist”. “He was a chilled-out guy more likely to have a smoke after football than plot a terror attack,” he said.

A Twitter campaign, under the hashtag #justiceforTarik, trended for a time as friends rallied round the arrested student.

Abuzeid, who worked part-time at Primark, had little interest in religion or politics, according to his brother.

Adai Abuzeid said his family, including his elderly grandmother and 63-year-old father, were forced to the floor as police stormed their flat.

“I looked at Gusai, using my eyes to ask what was going on. He just looked baffled – that’s how I know he hasn’t done anything.

“I was more shocked than scared. We haven’t heard from him since. He’s working hard to make something of his life. I can’t believe he’s been arrested – it doesn’t make sense.

He smokes, he drinks. If anything, he’s not really a Muslim – he doesn’t pray,” he said. He’s not political either. Our whole family is against what is going on out there.”

Cage, which campaigns against alleged excesses by western government in its fight against terrorism, said: “Cage is alarmed at the violent manner by which the police raided the house of Tarik Hassane, and by the alarmist media reporting that jeopardises the rule of law.”

It has also emerged that one of the ‘suspects’, Rawan Kheder, is an Iraqi Kurd. Friends of Mr Kheder said as an Iraqi Kurd, whose people were being slaughtered by Isil fighters, it was ludicrous to suggest he would get involved in such a plot.

The Metropolitan Police was facing questions over its latest terror raid on Thursday night after it emerged that one of the men arrested on suspicion of planning an Islamic State inspired plot was an Iraqi Kurd reports the Telegraph