London: The al Qaeda leaders are promoting 'jihad' from inside the high-security prisons in Britain by smuggling out propaganda for the internet and finding recruits, a Home Office-funded think tank has claimed.
In an authoritative report, Quilliam, the think tank, said "mismanagement" by the Prison Service is helping al Qaeda gain recruits and risks "strengthening jihadist movements".
According to the report, Abu Qatada, described by Britain's intelligence agency MI5 as "Osama Bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe" has posted 'fatwas' on the internet from Long Lartin jail, calling for 'jihad' or holy war and the "murder" of moderate Muslims, 'The Times' reported.
Abu Qatada is a radical Islamic cleric wanted on terror charges in Jordan. Like other jailed terrorist leaders, Qatada is meant to be cut off from his supporters outside.
Even during a brief spell of freedom in 2005, a government control order barred him from spreading his incendiary sermons without the permission of the Home Secretary.
Yet last year, under the noses of warders, it is said that Qatada and Adel Abdel Bary, leader of the UK branch of Egyptian 'Islamic Jihad', were able to smuggle out a series of 'fatwas' - religious decrees - legitimising attacks by al Qaeda. Qatada and Bary are two of about 100 Islamist terrorists in UK prisons.
Many are held in supposedly top-security jails such as Long Lartin, Belmarsh in southeast London, Frankland in Co Durham or Woodhill in Milton Keynes, for inciting or plotting attacks in which hundreds of people could have died.
One petty criminal, Muktar Said Ibrahim, who turned to Islam while a teenage inmate, had served time for indecent assault on a 15-year-old girl and mugging a 77-year-old woman at a Tube station.
He graduated to terrorism via various radical London mosques and camps in Afghanistan and went on to lead the failed London bombings of July 21, 2005, the report said.
Today those already convicted or suspected of terrorist offences have a different - and equally dangerous - role from their prison cells. They are the recruiters, seeking out a new generation of converts who will become the terrorist leaders of tomorrow, the report claimed.
Abu Doha, al Qaeda's main recruiter in Europe, has taken courses in Belmarsh enabling him to mentor other inmates.
Abu Hamza, jailed in 2006 for inciting murder, has preached sermons to followers using water pipes in his Belmarsh cell.
Rachid Ramda, leader of the Paris Metro bomb plot, led Friday prayers in the same jail.
Dhiren Barot, leader of the 'dirty bomb' plot to attack London, and Omar Kyham, who led the failed 'fertiliser bomb' plot, organised gang violence.
Prisoners risked becoming "incubators of extremism”, Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, a former chairman of Government's joint intelligence committee and now shadow security minister, said
The Ministry of Justice said all category 'A' prisoners were strictly monitored.
First Published: Sunday, November 15, 2009, 14:00