How Manch­ester be­came a cru­cible of ex­trem­ism

New Straits Times - - World - DM

LON­DON: Al­most a year ago, Greater Manch­ester Po­lice were forced to apol­o­gise af­ter a fake sui­cide bomber shouted Al­lahu

Ak­bar in an ex­er­cise in­volv­ing a sim­u­lated ter­ror­ist at­tack at the city’s big­gest shop­ping mall.

Hun­dreds of vol­un­teers joined the ex­er­cise at the Traf­ford Cen­tre, which took po­lice months to plan and was de­signed to repli­cate the bomb and gun atroc­i­ties that killed more than 160 peo­ple in Paris and Brus­sels in 2015 and last year.

The ex­er­cise was staged a few months af­ter An­drew Parker, the head of MI5, had warned that Manch­ester was an Is­lamist breed­ing ground.

To­gether with the cap­i­tal here and West Mid­lands, it was where many of the es­ti­mated 3,000 homegrown Is­lamic State mil­i­tants were liv­ing and be­lieved to be pre­par­ing to launch dev­as­tat­ing at­tacks.

The truth is that dozens of ter­ror­ists have emerged from this city — many from the Moss Side area, which is less than 3.2km from Fal­low­field, where Mon­day’s bomber lived.

Once im­pov­er­ished, Moss Side has had its trou­bles: a white and West In­dian gang cul­ture, gun crime and race ri­ots. Now, even as it has been gen­tri­fied by stu­dents and young fam­i­lies, it suf­fers from an­other in­famy.

Nine men from here have ei­ther killed them­selves in the name of IS, dis­ap­peared in sus­pi­cious cir­cum­stances and sus­pected of fight­ing for the ter­ror out­fit, or been jailed for ter­ror of­fences.

Spread the geo­graph­i­cal net a bit wider to­wards Fal­low­field, and the num­ber of men is 16.

Many have links to Manch­ester’s no­to­ri­ous “ji­hadi brides”, twin school­girls Salma and Zahra Halane, who left school and slipped out of the UK in 2015 to join IS.

De­scribed as IS re­cruiters of other young UK women, the girls de­clared on so­cial me­dia: “Al­lah, the mer­ci­ful… we came to hate the in­fi­dels in Bri­tain to such a de­gree we could not even bear to look at them. Best ad­vice is to get the whole fam­ily to travel to IS.”

The con­nec­tions do not end there. Mon­day’s bomber, Bri­tish­born Sal­man Abedi, grew up just me­tres from the high school once at­tended by the twins — both then as­pir­ing med­i­cal stu­dents. He also lived in Moss Side be­fore his fam­ily moved to Fal­low­field.

Fur­ther­more, a cousin of the twins, A-Level stu­dent Ab­dul­lahi Ahmed Jama Farah, 20, was jailed last year for ter­ror of­fences af­ter he cre­ated “an IS hub of com­mu­ni­ca­tion”for like-minded young ex­trem­ists from his mother’s home in Fal­low­field.

The evil seeds of ha­tred were sown in the sub­urbs of this on­ce­pros­per­ous city years ago.

In 2000. a small white com­puter was dis­cov­ered in the dusty cor­ner of a shabby stu­dent flat in Manch­ester’s Dids­bury where a Libyan-born ter­ror­ist lived.

Un­der­cover po­lice, tipped off by the United State’s Fed­eral Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion, found it con­tained the of­fi­cial train­ing man­ual of al-Qaeda ter­ror­ists.

It ex­plained in deadly de­tail how to wage a “holy war” against Chris­tian in­fi­dels on the streets of Bri­tain.

When the 18-chap­ter Ara­bic man­ual was printed out, it ran to 180 closely-typed A4 pages giv­ing spe­cific and in­tri­cate de­tails on how to make ex­plo­sives, mix poi­sons, carry out ur­ban killings and be­come a sui­cide bomber.

It was de­signed to “re-ed­u­cate” re­cruits in the West and trans­form them into holy war­riors.

“Ex­plo­sives are the safest weapon for the holy war­riors. They strike the en­emy with sheer ter­ror and fright.”

The com­puter, which con­tained what the FBI dubbed the “Manch­ester Doc­u­ment”, was owned by a 35-year-old bearded man named Abu Anas, who had slipped il­le­gally into north­ern Bri­tain and suc­cess­fully claimed po­lit­i­cal asy­lum in 1995.

The ter­ror­ist fled Bri­tain be­fore po­lice stormed his flat on a May morn­ing in 2000. He made for Afghanistan with a US$25 mil­lion (RM110 mil­lion) price on his head and was, luck­ily, cap­tured by US forces.

He died of liver dis­ease in US cus­tody at 50. But his le­gacy through the man­ual lived on.

For it was found again — among other ter­ri­fy­ing doc­u­ments pro­mot­ing Is­lamic ter­ror — on pub­lic com­put­ers at Manch­ester Central Li­brary and other li­braries across Bri­tain.

Lo­cal youths reg­u­larly spent hours read­ing the man­ual and other ter­ror doc­u­ments at the li­brary.

One li­brar­ian said: “We have been specif­i­cally in­structed not to chal­lenge the young men who are ac­tively ac­cess­ing the sites of these ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tions.”

The li­brar­ian had been si­lenced by po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness — just as the Manch­ester Po­lice were when they tried to stage a re­al­is­tic mock ter­ror at­tack de­signed to save peo­ple’s lives.

Trag­i­cally, it ap­pears the po­lice were on the right track.

AGENCY PIX

A woman look­ing at flow­ers in Al­bert Square in Manch­ester yes­ter­day, placed in trib­ute to the vic­tims of the May 22 ter­ror at­tack at the Manch­ester Arena.

Bri­tish soldiers ar­riv­ing by bus and head­ing to­ward a build­ing next to New Scot­land Yard po­lice head­quar­ters near to the Houses of Par­lia­ment in central Lon­don yes­ter­day.

A woman hug­ging a girl wear­ing a T-shirt from Ari­ana Grande’s Danger­ous Woman con­cert in Al­bert Square yes­ter­day.

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