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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Londoner denies being 'Al-Qaeda banker'

LONDON (AFP) - A man accused of being a banker for Al-Qaeda has denied claims from London and Washington that he played a key role in the terrorist network inspired by
Osama bin Laden.

The US Treasury and Britain's central bank, the Bank of England, last month both froze the assets of Mohammed al-Ghabra in line with
United Nations sanctions aimed at tackling terrorist financing.

He is specifically accused of backing Al-Qaeda and other violent jihadist groups, helping recruits travel to meet Al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan and take part in terrorist training.

He is also alleged to have helped some Britons travel to
Iraq to fight coalition forces -- reportedly a growing concern of intelligence agencies alongside radicalisation of British Muslims in Pakistan.

But Ghabra -- who is also said to have met senior Al-Qaeda leaders, been trained himself to fight in
Kashmir and maintain links to extremist groups with radical views in Britain -- denied the claims to The Sunday Times.

"If I am the money-maker and this is why they have decided to put the sanctions against me, how could I have so many financial problems myself?" he was quoted as saying.

The 26-year-old, from Forest Gate, east London, added: "I don't have the capability of supporting anyone financially, barely myself... If anyone has the evidence, please show it to me. I am not the banker."

Ghabra, who was born in Damascus but is a naturalised British citizen, had his home -- a two-storey maisonette where he lives with his mother and sister -- raided by counter-terrorism officers last month.

The weekly said the search warrant said detectives were looking for "explosives, precursor chemicals, weapons, component parts of weapons or improvised explosive devices".

They were also hunting "documentation, maps, plans or any other data giving details of possible targets/venues subject to terrorist attack".

According to the US Treasury, Ghabra is said to be linked to a number of suspects wanted in connection with alleged Al-Qaeda plots against British targets.

One is Haroon Aswat, whom the US authorities want to extradite with Abu Hamza al-Masri, the jailed former imam of the once radical Finsbury Park mosque in north London, on suspicion of setting up a training camp in Oregon.

Ghabra told The Sunday Times: "My radical views are the same as any ordinary Muslim's radical views.

"Yes, I disagree with the invasion of
Afghanistan... I don't agree with people coming here and... fighting here, fighting the British public.

"Things like the July bombings (in 2005, when four suicide bombers killed themselves and 52 others on London transport) I don't agree with."
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