Update: Omar Bakri Muhammad, bin Laden's man in London

Born in 1958 in Syria, Islamist Sheikh Omar bin Bakri Muhammad was recruited as a young man by the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood movement and participated in its revolt against then-Syrian President Hafez Assad. As a result, he was expelled from Syria and moved to Beirut, Lebanon.

In Beirut, Bakri joined Sheikh Khalil Al-Mat and the local branch of Hizb Al-Tahrir. In 1983, he took the alias of Omar Fustuk and settled in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where he established Al-Muhajirun as a front for the Hizb Al-Tahrir in the Arabian Peninsula.

Al-Muhajirun now has offices in Britain, France, Germany, Pakistan and the U.S.

Bakri became a legal resident of Britain in 1993, and in March 1996 he applied for citizenship.

Between 1994 and 1998, Bakri gave speeches at Islamist rallies in London's Trafalgar Square and Wembley Stadium. He also founded the Al-Khilafa publishing house in London and serves as a judge in the Shari'a, or Islamic Law, Court of the U.K. Bakri also claims to be the spokesman of the International Islamic Front, the political wing of the International Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders, led by Osama bin Laden. Bakri has also stated that he has actively sought recruits for other groups, such as Hamas, Hezbollah and various liberation movements in Afghanistan and elsewhere (see story).

Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad, founder of the London-based group Jama'at Al-Muhajirun

Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad, founder of the London-based group Jama'at Al-Muhajirun

Credit: The Associated Press

Prior to last year's Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, an FBI memo written by agent Kenneth Williams and e-mailed to the FBI's Washington headquarters on July 10, 2001, noted a connection between Middle Eastern men in Phoenix-area flight schools and Bakri's London-based Al-Muhajirun.

Bakri refers to Al-Muhajirun as "the mouth, eyes and ears" of bin Laden.

In 1998, Bakri was one of several individuals to receive a letter faxed from Afghanistan from bin Laden that outlined four objectives for a jihad against the U.S., including the hijacking of airliners. Also included in the fax was a statement urging Muslims to "force the closure of their companies and banks."

The sheikh has also been involved with issuing a fatwa -- an Islamic call to action -- that cited airports as one of several legitimate attack targets in the U.S., as well as another fatwa that called for the assassination of Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf.

Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

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