Omar Bakri Mohammed
|“||I cannot take a day off, an hour off, even a minute off. I will take time off when I am with Allah, when I die in the battlefield and become a martyr.||„|
|~ Omar Bakri Mohammed|
Omar Bakri Muhammad (Arabic: عمر بکری فستق; born Omar Bakri Fostock in 1958) is a Syrian Salafi militant Islamist leader, born in Aleppo, Syria.
For several years, Bakri was one of the most infamous, high-profile Islamists based in London, and was frequently quoted and interviewed in the UK media. In December 2004 he vowed that Muslims would give the West "a September 11 attacks, day after day after day," if Western governments did not change their policies. He has been described as "closely linked to al-Qaeda"—having released prepared statements from Osama bin Laden after the 1998 United States embassy bombings—but also as the "Tottenham Ayatollah", "little more than a loudmouth," and "a figure of fun."
In 2005, following the 7 July 2005 London bombings, The Sunday Times reported that "a dozen members" of his group Al-Muhajiroun "have taken part in suicide bombings or have become close to Al-Qaeda and its support network." Shortly after, he left the UK, where he had sheltered for 20 years, for Lebanon. While there, he was informed by the Home Office that he would not be allowed back into the UK.
Lebanon's state-run National News Agency said on 12 November 2010 that Bakri was among 54 people sentenced by a military court to life in prison with hard labour after being accused of acts of terrorism. After the decision, Bakri told reporters, he would "not spend one day in prison", and said, "I will not hand myself in to any court. I do not believe in the law in Britain as in Lebanon." On 14 November 2010, he was arrested by the Lebanese police and was transferred to Beirut.
British newspapers have called him the "Tottenham Ayatollah", despite him identifying as Salafi and the title "ayatollah" being a Shia epithet. Former Conservative MP Rupert Allason described him as a "terrorist who believes in planting bombs and blowing up women and children in Israel." Roland Jacquard, a French expert on Islamic terrorism, said that "every al-Qaeda operative recently arrested or identified in Europe had come into contact with Bakri at some time or other."
Future Television interviewed Bakri on 11 August 2005. Bakri said he did not have ties to Al Qaeda, calling it a "media creation" and said he did not intend to return to Britain. During the interview, Bakri said "I left Britain on my own accord though I have not been accused of anything there or in Lebanon... but the London attacks are the reason I have returned". According to media reports, Lebanese police arrested Bakri as soon as he left the building after the interview. Police later said the arrest was "a routine arrest to determine his reasons and if his residency in Lebanon is legitimate." Lebanese Information Minister Ghazi Aridi later said Bakri was arrested as a "precautionary measure." British Ambassador to Lebanon James Watt said, "We made no request for his arrest, nor for his extradition. As far as I am concerned, this is a very simple story – it is a Lebanese citizen who returned to Lebanon and has been arrested by the Lebanese police. We have nothing to do with it and it's not in our place to comment on what has happened."
In mid-November 2010, Bakri was sentenced to life in prison in Lebanon in a terrorism case that he claimed to know nothing about, but was subsequently released on bail when witnesses who testified against him withdrew their testimony.
After his release he was reported to be living in Tripoli. In April 2014, his home was raided by Lebanese security forces because of his alleged involvement in fighting between the area's Alawite community and local Sunnis. He fled the city and the Lebanese authorities announced he was wanted for "endangering national security". In May 2014 he was arrested in the town of Aley and, in a press conference, the Lebanese Interior Minister, Nouhad Machnouk, alleged that Bakri "has contributed in every aspect in supporting terrorism".
In October, 2014, Bakri was sentenced to six years in prison with hard labor by a Lebanese court for founding a Lebanese affiliate of the Al-Qaeda linked Syrian terrorist group Al-Nusra Front, and of building a training camp for Nusra Front fighters in Lebanon. The following year, two of Bakri's sons were killed fighting in the ranks of rival extremist group the Islamic State. The first, Muhammad, was killed in Aleppo, Syria, and the second, Bilal, in Salah al-Din province in Iraq in December, 2015.