British-run orphanage in Bangladesh ‘is Islamist training camp’

A raid on an orphanage in Bangladesh has uncovered a suspected Islamic militant training camp with links to a British charity run by a man acquitted of being part of an al-Qaeda bomb plot.

The home of Faisal Mostafa in the Heaton Mersey district of Stockport, Greater Manchester, is the headquarters of the Green Crescent charity, whose orphanage on the island of Bhola in Bangladesh is under investigation for allegedly being a front for a militant training camp and arms factory.

Lieutenant-Colonel Munir Haque, a senior officer of the elite Rapid Action Battalion, who oversaw the raid on Tuesday, told The Times: “We found small arms — about nine or ten in total — plus equipment to make small arms, about 3,000 rounds of ammunition, two walkie-talkies, two remote-control devices and four sets of army uniforms.

“We also found enough explosives and other equipment to make several hundred grenades. We found some ordinary Islamic books, but others that are in line with extremists like [Osama] bin Laden.”

The battalion arrested four people — a teacher and three caretakers — and began an investigation into the Green Crescent charity.

Colonel Haque said that there were green banners around the compound bearing the name Green Crescent, and local people had told them that it was a British charity financed by a man they knew as “Faisal”, who they said had lived in Britain for 25 years.

Mamunur Rashid, another officer involved in the raid, described the orphanage as a madrassa, or Islamic seminary, and said that the charity had plans to build two more. “It is a big madrassa and we have so far gathered that this whole compound is being used for militant training,” he said.

The charity’s website, greencrescent.org, shows that it is involved in projects in Bhola, as well as several others around Bangladesh and at least one in Pakistan. The site says that the charity — registered in Britain under number 1099233 — was founded in 1998 by students in Britain and Bangladesh.

The family of Dr Mostafa, 45, who has a chemistry degree and a PhD in metals corrosion, said yesterday that he had set up the orphanage because of a humanitarian desire to help poor children. Colonel Haque said that there were about 11 children between the ages of 7 and 8 at the compound at the time of the raid.

Ashraf Ali, a British Bangladeshi teacher from Stockport, whose telephone number is listed on the charity website, told The Times that he did not work for Green Crescent, but had helped to organise fundraising events.

“Faisal’s a respected guy,” he said. “They’re doing amazing work. He travels to Bangladesh once a year on average, sometimes taking teams of doctors with him.”

Dr Mostafa was acquitted in February 2002 of plotting with Moinul Abedin, also Bangladeshi-born, to cause explosions. Both were arrested in Birmingham. Abedin was found guilty and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

They had been under surveillance by MI5 officers in an operation codenamed Large. Abedin was given the personal codename “Pivotal Dancer”.

MI5 regarded the Birmingham case as the first evidence of al-Qaeda activity in Britain. Since his acquittal in 2002 Dr Mostafa has remained a subject of interest to the security services.

He was acquitted of a similar explosives charge in 1996 after a trial at Manchester Crown Court. Prosecutors claimed explosives were found at his home. But he was found guilty of illegally possessing a firearm, sentenced to four years in prison and banned for life from possessing a firearm.

In July last year he was arrested at Manchester airport for trying to board an aircraft with a pistol in his suitcase. He checked in with the component parts of a gas-powered pistol and primers in his luggage as he and his family were intending to fly to Dubai.He claimed that it was to be used for hunting and fishing, and was given a suspended sentence.

Dr Mostafa is known as a quiet, industrious professional man who advises companies how to transport dangerous materials safely. He is married with three children.

Ghulam Mostafa, his father, accounted for the apparent discovery of an “arms factory”. He said that his son had enjoyed a life-long interest in hunting and that he manufactured his own ammunition using spent cartridges and gunpowder. He urged his son overnight to hand himself over to the British High Commission. The family said they understood that he had been arrested.

Mr Mostafa, who arrived in Britain in 1964, said that the compound in Bhola was an orphanage where youngsters could receive a well-rounded education and could not be described as a madrassa. “My son is not a terrorist,” he said.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office refused to comment yesterday.

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March 26, 2009. Tags: , , , . Uncategorized.

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