Boston Bombing – the UK connection?
Early evidence suggests that the suspects behind the Boston bombings acted as lone jihadis, rather than part of a wider network. While not much is clear yet, it is apparent, however, that online propaganda played a powerful part in the radicalisation of the suspects.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has also told investigators that he and his brother taught themselves to build bombs by reading the instructions in Inspire, an online, English-language magazine that terror monitoring groups say al Qaeda began publishing in 2010, under the Anwar Al-Awlaki, the late Al Qaeda leader.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the elder of the Boston bombing suspects — killed in a shoot-out with Boston police — subscribed to a UK-based YouTube channel called Allah is the One, run by an organisation called the Merciful Servant.
While there is not the slightest shred of evidence to suggest that these British Islamists had any knowledge or involvement with the Boston Bombers, as with the Inspire Magazine, it is clear their preaching and messages are a powerful tool in the process of radicalisation.
Merciful Servant’s channel includes footage of Zakir Naik, the Islamist hate-preacher banned from Britain, who is on the advisory board of the Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA). Videos on the Merciful Servant’s site included sermons by Hamza Tzortzis, a senior figure at the iERA.
The Merciful Servant has a business address on the same floor in the same building as the iERA; both organisations, however, deny that they are linked.
Allah is the One previously displayed a jihadi warrior as its logo. Following the explosions in Boston, however, this was replaced with an image of a dove. Further, it has made some of its videos private. Stand for Peace, however, has screenshots of the videos, now removed, displayed by the channel:
Merciful Servant is run by Hasan Sarwar, who lives in Highbury, north London. Registered to the same address is the charity Darul Khidmah Wal Falah, which in 2008 was given £18,000 by the Muslim Educational Trust, which produces pamphlets on a range of Islamic issues which, among other things, have advocated the death penalty for homosexuality. Both organisations share several trustees. One such trustee is Ghulam Sarwar, a relation of Hasan Sarwar, and an alleged Jamaat-e-Islami leader who is accused of involvement in the 1971 genocide in Bangladesh.
Although Hasan Sarwar’s organisation claims to be separate from the iERA, aside from sharing the same floor in the same building, the organisation’s YouTube channel includes videos of a number of preachers from the iERA.
The iERA tours hate preachers around Britain. It is an extreme Salafist group, which largely focuses on da’wah (proselytizing or preaching). Recently, its speakers have been banned from venues such as the University Conference London, Arsenal football stadium and the Sheraton Centre Hotel.
Three iERA speakers have been banned from entering Britain: Bilal Philips, described by the US an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the 1993 al-Qaeda attack on the World Trade Center; Zakir Naik, banned from the UK for saying that “every Muslim should be a terrorist;” and Hussein Yee, who openly preaches hatred against Jews, and claims that Jews in America were ‘happy’ when the Twin Towers fell. (Read Stand for Peace’s report on the iERA here (PDF))
Hamza Tzortzis, whose lecturers were promoted by Merciful Servant, was formerly a trustee of Green Crescent, a British charity placed under investigation by the Charity Commission for links with Islamist terrorism. He resigned his trusteeship after Green Crescent’s head, Faisal Mostafa, was arrested and charged with terrorism offences in Bangladesh following the discovery of arms caches at a school run by the charity. Dr Mostafa has twice stood trial – and been cleared – on terrorism charges in Britain. In 2008, however, he was given a two-year suspended sentence after attempting to board an aeroplane at Manchester airport with a pistol in his suitcase.
Tzortzis, although never personally accused of terrorist offences, has called for an Islamic state, expressed his hostility towards Western values and stated that: “We as Muslims reject the idea of freedom of speech, and even of freedom.”