Fighting … Brits are involved in a bloody war in the Helmand province
By OLIVER HARVEY
Chief Feature Writer
Published: 21 Jul 2009
ONE was a cricket-mad lad from the London commuter belt, the other a Leeds-based teaching assistant.
The explosion in an icy mountain stream near Malakand in 2003 sent a plume of water gushing 20ft in the air.
Fast forward in time and the two Brits would import the murderous techniques from the Taliban killing fields to British streets.
Bombing … 2005 attacks in London
One was 7/7 mastermind Mohammad Sidique Khan of Leeds who, with three others, killed 52 innocents on the London transport network in 2005.
The other was Omar Khyam, a ringleader of the so-called fertiliser bomb plotters. He was caught in 2004 before they could set off bombs in the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent and the Ministry of Sound nightclub in London.
As the bodies of our fallen troops continue to return home from war-torn Helmand in Union Flag-draped coffins, the Prime Minister has spoken of the “chain of terror” stretching from Afghanistan to the UK.
The most recent, a member of The 2nd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, died on Sunday in the town of Sangin in northern Helmand.
The PM argued the sacrifice made by our troops – 186 have died since operations began in Afghanistan – was vital and that to stop fighting the Taliban would make the UK “less safe”.
See how the chain of terror stretches from Afghanistan’s poppy
fields to the streets of Britain in the slideshow, below…
Justifying the UK military presence in Helmand, he said: “It comes back to terrorism on the streets of Britain.
“There is a chain of terror that links what’s happening in Afghanistan and Pakistan to the streets of Britain.
“If we were to allow the Taliban to be back in power in Afghanistan, and al-Qaeda then to have the freedom of manoeuvre it had before 2001, we would be less safe as a country.”
US President Barack Obama agreed, insisting: “The mission in Afghanistan is one that the Europeans have as much, if not more, of a stake in than we do.
“The likelihood of a terrorist attack in London is at least as high, if not higher, than it is in the United States.”
Government officials state around three quarters of the most advanced plots monitored by MI5 have Pakistani links.
They said the security service is aware of around 30 serious plots at any given moment, suggesting that at least 21 of them are tied to Pakistani groups.
And Afghanistan provides the bulk of the heroin on Britain’s streets – with the profits funding Taliban guerrillas.
A staggering 93 per cent of the world’s heroin comes from Afghanistan – two thirds of it from Helmand, where British troops are fighting and dying.
Taliban chiefs often “tax” narcotics gangs ten per cent for providing security.
Afghan police chief Lt Col Abdul Qader Zaheer, 45, told me last year: “If it wasn’t for heroin there wouldn’t be a war here. It pays for Taliban guns.”
Poppies … heroin production in Afghanistan
The tentacles of jihad linking Britain and Afghanistan begin on the Helmand frontline.
One dead Taliban fighter was found with an Aston Villa tattoo. The discovery suggested the insurgent was from the UK and followed news that RAF radio spies picked up Brummie accents while listening in on Taliban “chatter” over the airwaves.
These UK-born fighters arrive through the mountainous and sieve-like border from Pakistan – the same desolate, lawless region where Khyam and Khan received their bomb-making masterclass.
It is believed Khan filmed his “martyrdom” video in Pakistan. In it, he glares at the camera with his hatred of the West clearly evident and declares icily: “We are at war and I am a soldier.”
Pakistan is the next link in the chain of terror. British jihadis receive not only weapons training there but are also further radicalised by preachers of hate at madrassas or religious schools.
Khan’s fellow 7/7 murderer, Shehzad Tanweer, is said to have worshipped at Islamabad’s notorious Red Mosque.
Before being gunned down by commandoes in a siege at the mosque in 2007, fanatical cleric Abdul Rashid Ghazi told The Sun: “The US and UK are the enemy No1 of the Muslims. Muslims must unite against them. We teach Britons here for holy war.”
Bloody battle … British troops in Afghanistan
Fertiliser plotter Khyam admitted receiving both military training in Pakistan and being awed when meeting the Taliban across the border in Afghanistan.
Asked during his Old Bailey trial what he learned in Pakistan training camps, he said: “Everything I needed for guerrilla warfare in Kashmir: AK-47s, RPGs, sniper rifles, climbing techniques, reconnaissance and light machine guns.”
Back in the UK, former school cricket captain Khyam, of Crawley, West Sussex, raised money for “the cause”.
In 2001 he slipped into Afghanistan to meet the Taliban, telling the court: “They were amazing people who loved Allah.
“They were soft, kind and humble to Muslims, harsh against enemies. This is how an Islamic state should be.” The Islamist radicals in Afghanistan and Pakistan make no effort to disguise their aim to introduce Sharia law to Britain. In the dusty Pakistani town of Kahuta, a cleric was happy to tell me last year of his desire to bring beheadings and stonings to our shores.
Imam Qari Hifzur Rehamn, 60 said of Britain: “Non-believers must be converted to Islam. Morals in your society, with women wearing revealing clothes, have gone wrong.
“We want Islamic law for all Pakistan and then the world.
“We would like to do this by preaching. But if not then we would use force.”
‘Islamic law for all’ … Imam Qari Hifzur Rehamn with Oliver Harvey
The Imam of the town’s religious school, where kids as young as nine are taught jihad or holy war, added: “Adulterers should be buried in earth to the waist and stoned to death.
“Thieves should have their hands cut off. Women should remain indoors and films and pop music should be banned.
“Homosexuals must be killed – it’s the only way to stop them spreading. It should be by beheading or stoning, which the general public can do.”
Al-Qaeda members were able to plot 9/11 and other atrocities after being given safe haven by the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Today the resurgent Taliban are a formidable foe who, despite coming from medieval mud villages, have mastered the intricacies of modern guerrilla warfare.
But the US-led coalition has vowed to stop the radicals from governing the desperately poor nation again and fermenting an ideology of holy war against the West.
The final link in the jihadi chain is a return to Britain.
Khan slipped back into the UK in February 2005. Just five months later he detonated his rucksack bomb at Edgware Road Tube station, murdering six people.
On the sun-baked plains and river valleys of Helmand today, our forces – some just 18 – are locked in deadly combat with a resilient Taliban army.
The prize in this bloody war, and the legacy for those brave soldiers who have returned here to heroes’ funerals, is to snap the chain of terror for good.
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