Sunday, September 24, 2006

BETRAYED: MI6 left Brit spook to be tortured

A British secret agent abandoned by his MI6 spymasters to be tortured by the Taliban has lived to tell his incredible tale, only to the News of the World.

From his recruitment, through a series of body-littered missions to his eventual betrayal by a sinister henchman and his arrest and torture, Colin Berry relives his incredible story at machine-gun pace in his new book.

Our man Dan Evans picks up the smoking cartridges of a truly terrifying tale...

BRITISH secret agent Colin Berry squeezed the trigger of his 9mm Makarov as an Afghan bullet thudded into him, slamming him backwards on to the hotel bed.

Eight shots exploded from his pistol. And as the last spent cartridge clattered on to the floor amid a haze of cordite, the wounded MI6 spy knew it was time to escape from hell.

In Berry's room lay two dead Afghan chemical weapons dealers who had come to kill him—his cover blown after daredevil missions in which he:

STOPPED missiles from falling into the hands of al-Qaeda terrorists planning to shoot down jumbo jets

RISKED his life to locate Taliban fighters and arsenals—ending up in a terrifying mountain gun battle, and

TRAINED a force of Afghans to fight the Taliban—only to find them all beheaded after they set off on a mission.

But what Berry didn't know as he sat phoning for help while trying to stem the blood from his wounded side was that his masters in London were to betray him—and leave him to be tortured for SIX MONTHS in a Kabul jail.

"I was the perfect deniable agent for them," says Berry, 37. "They recruited me, told me I was doing work of national importance—and then dropped me in the s***."

Former Queen's Regiment soldier Berry says he was approached by MI6 in 2002 as he ran an engineering firm exporting housing to Afghanistan.

Spooks believed his job was perfect cover. Both they and the CIA wanted him to work with sinister Greek-Cypriot arms dealer Nikkos Nikolaides who had been caught plotting against British forces in Cyprus and turned double agent.

"We were told to get into the market and buy up systems like Stinger and Blowpipe (missiles) which the west had sold to the Mujahideen to down helicopters in the war against the Soviets," says Berry.

"Now we wanted them back before al-Qaeda got them." Nikolaides got the ball rolling soon after Berry arrived in Kabul.

"Colin, my friend, we're going to see a man about a missile," he said. An Afghan colonel handed it over near an art gallery. After Berry inspected the Stinger the man was given $300,000 in notes.

"This first buy established a pattern," says Berry. "The word went out about Nikos and me and we recovered eight Stingers, 25 Blowpipes, 20 Russian SA-7 Strela missiles and 30 RPG-18 anti-tank weapons."

Soon he was given more dangerous work. In December, 2002, he completed a nine-hour mission into the mountains to locate the exact GPS position of a secret al-Qaeda cell.

Then MI6 sent him to find a remote mountain pass being used by al-Qaeda to traffic raw opium. He had to flee an ambush by mountain bandits to get his valuable information back.

His next assignment was checking out a tunnel with a Scud missile hidden in it. Berry posed as an aid worker to get into the village guarding the tunnel entrance.

After getting the evidence he wanted at dead of night he and his guide Karsi left the next morning, only to be followed by two 4x4s packed with Kalashnikov-toting rebels who opened up.

"I shouted to Karsi, ‘We're going to have to take them out'. Then I leaned back and pulled out an AK-47 I had hidden under a blanket," says Berry.

He raced ahead and pulled off the road behind a rocky outcrop, leaping from the vehicle with his gun.

"As they came around the bend I let rip a long burst straight through the windscreen. As the 4x4 careered across the road I followed it with three to four bursts. It went into the ravine.

"The second car braked and I turned and raked it. Karsi and I looked in. All there was was smoke and burst raw innards. We pushed it into the ravine."

Berry was then approached by an Afghan general to train 20 of his men to cross into Pakistan and spy on an al-Qaeda HQ there. He kept the work at a mountain camp secret from Nikolaides who he had begun to suspect was double-crossing him.

Berry got close to the group's leader, Walheed. He had felt a fatherly worry for them all as he sent them towards the Pakistan border.

But when he lost radio contact with Walheed, he and Karsi knew something was wrong and set out to find them. "When I saw the vultures hovering my heart sank," he says. They found all 20 beheaded.

"Walheed had not had an easy death. He had been tortured and burned. The bottoms of his feet had been beaten," says Berry. The furious Afghan general blamed Nikolaides and the CIA.

If Berry had doubts that he was being double-crossed, they disappeared when two Afghan warlords, Sherjhan and Husseini, pulled guns on him as they met him at his room at Kabul's Intercontinental Hotel in February 2003 to sell him a chemical called Yellow Rain.

"I lunged forward and hit Husseini hard but his gun went off as he fell backwards into a chair and it felt as if something had been pulled backwards out of my side," says Berry.

"As I fell into the bed I pulled out my pistol and thought, f*** you—and shot Sherjhan first three times in the chest then Husseini three times as he got back up and tried to shoot me again. I finished him off with a bullet through the head."

Berry knew the game was up. CIA agents got him to hospital from where he expected MI6 to spirit him back home.

But instead he was arrested by local police, dragged in pain to their HQ and accused of being a spy.


Days later in a dingy room he had electrodes attached to his feet. "Admit you're an American spy," snapped the sinister general interrogating him.

"I shouted ‘I'm not... F***!' The pain as the current went through me was excruciating," says Berry. His torture went on for six months during which he was caged in a dark 4ft by 8ft cell with an earth floor and no bed or toilet.

When he attacked an officer and tried to escape, he was kicked to a pulp by other guards and then whipped across the back with a metal cable.

"I don't know how long this beating went on, but I lost consciousness," says Berry. He was so badly beaten he ended up in hospital where, at last, British Embassy officials visited him.

A deal was done with the Afghanistan government and Berry was released. His role has never been acknowledged by MI6.

"I'm not James Bond, but I depended on the people I was working for to come and get me out before things got too bad," says Berry.

"They didn't. The missions were real—but the back-up wasn't. And I paid for it."

Deniable Agent, published by Mainstream on October 5, can be ordered from the News of the World Bookshop for £16.19 with free delivery by calling 0870 162 5005. RRP is £17.99.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

EXCLUSIVE: Chris Tarrant's wife hunts 'other woman'

TV STAR Chris Tarrant's suspicious wife Ingrid set a team of private detectives to watch the woman she believes is his secret mistress.

Determined to know every detail, she set a fling-buster team of private eyes on Chris and "the other woman", issuing the shock order:

"Nail him and I'll divorce him!"

Although Ingrid publicly declared this week that her husband wasn't the type to even kiss another woman, she is privately convinced the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? frontman has been having an affair with a 50-year-old business acquaintance for more than A YEAR.

In desperation she called in the detectives earlier this summer, gave them the woman's name, address, details of 59-year-old Chris's text messages and ordered them to:

# STAKE out a suspected lovenest in Bucklebury Common, Berkshire, which she nicknamed "F***lebury Common".

# FIX a secret tracking device to the family's silver Mercedes to monitor all Chris's journeys.

# TAIL the woman to check her every movement.

Today's revelations—plus news that the Tarrants have split after 15 years and Chris is now staying with friends in London—follow his amazing confession to the News of World last Sunday that the marriage was in crisis over a drunken snog with another woman in a divorcees' bar.

And last night friend of the couple told us how weeks ago worried 51-year-old Ingrid made an appointment to see former Metropolitan Police detective Jim Shurvell, of JVS Investigations, at his home in Epsom, Surrey, just seven miles from the Tarrants' Esher mansion.

"She was very distressed and was in a state of high anxiety," said the pal.


"She dashed into the house, paranoid that she'd be recognised by neighbours.

"She told the investigators that an affair would be straightforward to prove and outlined her plan of where the detectives had to be placed and at what time. She wasn't concerned about money or how much it would cost, she just wanted the proof.

"Once she had that proof, she was going to head for the divorce court."

She claimed Chris had been having a fling with the woman for over a year after meeting her on charity work.

Once she she was convinced of Shurvell's credentials, she hired him and his team for £30 an hour per detective to tail her husband.

In a series of face to face meetings with motorbike-riding, tough-talking Shurvell, Ingrid handed over details of the other woman's £1million in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, where she lives with her partner, who was last night said to be devastated by the latest shock twist in the saga.


Ingrid's ‘dirty dossier' also pinpointed the isolated country property which Chris had just bought 25 miles away in Bucklebury Common, that furious Ingrid insisted on calling "F***lebury".

The house, called Osgood's Gulley, is approached by a narrow, unmade road and would provide the perfect love rat's hideaway, she believed.

Ingrid also instructed that an electronic tracking device should be secretly attached to Chris's car so they would know where he was 24 hours a day. The sophisticated gizmo was yesterday still believed to be on the vehicle.

Still emotional and distressed, Ingrid pleaded with the undercover team to be as discreet as possible.

Shurvell and his team covered both houses for several weeks, and tailed Tarrant throughout London and the Home Counties by car and motorbike. But in the end they had to report to Ingrid that they had uncovered no evidence of Chris being unfaithful, and no evidence of any contact with the other woman.

Disappointed Ingrid then called off the dogs and paid the bill.


A family friend revealed: "When she was told the results of the surveillance Ingrid seemed extremely agitated and blamed the agency for failing to get the goods.

"Her friends feel very sorry for her. She is like a bird in a gilded cage with more money than you could ever imagine and a string of luxury cars and houses. And yet it seems like she's had the cares of the world on her shoulders."

When we contacted ex cop Shurvell he told us: "I never comment on clients.

"What are you trying to do, ruin me?"

Our inside source said last night: "It's very sad but there's no way back for Chris and Ingrid now.

"They've split up and Chris has moved out of the family home.

"But Ingrid has been very brave this past week, especially when she stood on her doorstep and told the world that she didn't believe Chris had it in him to even kiss another woman. But inside she clearly thought differently."

Ingrid, who has two teenage children with Chris—plus four from their former marriages—spoke out to defend the £3.5million-a-year celebrity after was seen snogging a busty brunette in the R Bar near their home.


She branded some women in her neighbourhood as "desperate Surrey housewives" and insisted of the kiss:

"It would be something that someone did to him and before he knew it, it was over.

"I suspect that he didn't do anything. He's not the sort of person who would do that—but someone would do that to him.

"I've been with him in the past when women have thrown themselves at him and even lifted up their skirts with no knickers on. It's quite disgusting."

But last night she was in a differenct mood. When we put our latest revelations to Ingrid she said:

"All I can do at the moment is be the best possible mother to my children and sort it all out with Chris.

"I don't want to say anything until I've sat down and digested all of this."

Sunday, September 10, 2006

INTERVIEW: Gordon Brown squares up to Labour rebels

By Ian Kirby, Political Editor

Gordon Brown has faced down his critics after a week of Labour war and pledged to brush them aside on his way to power.

In a breezy and confident demonstration of his new authority, the Chancellor laughed off this weekend's bitter personal criticism from hardline Blairites who blamed him for the leadership crisis that tore the Government apart.

Directly rebuffing ex-Home Secretary Charles Clarke's claim that he shouldn't assume he will be anointed Britain's next prime minister, Mr Brown openly threw down the gauntlet to anyone who thought they could rival him as future leader.

In a clear "come and have a go if you think you're hard enough!" challenge, tough-guy Brown squared up to the Blairite rebels and said:

"I am HAPPY for there to be a leadership contest. I think there SHOULD be. If people decide they want to stand when there is a leadership contest, whenever that happens, they should feel free to do so. I would WELCOME the open contest."

But in a wide-ranging exclusive interview with the News of the World, he went on to:

* Pour CONTEMPT on Mr Clarke's claims he'd been "stupid" to be photographed laughing and gloating after leaving a meeting with the PM - in fact, he revealed, he'd been innocently chuckling with one of his staff about his newborn son Fraser's latest exploits. He said: "It comes to something when people even criticise me for smiling."

* DISMISS claims that he urged on Labour's anti-Blair rebels as 'nonsense'.

He said: "I made it very clear to people all week, privately, that Tony should make his own decision and we should support that decision ... any suggestion that I or those acting for me were directly involved in this is absolute nonsense."

* REJECT claims that he is a control freak saying 'I'm a team player."

* HINT that former Home Secretary Clarke's attack was motivated by a historic row over budget cuts.

* ICILY reject as "laughable" that attack and Mr Clarke's other highly-personal accusations that he was a psychologically-flawed “deluded control freak” .

* REFUSE to condemn the eight Labour rebels - branded by Mr Blair as "disloyal" - who had quit government posts in protest at the PM clinging to power and refused to rule out their returning to Government.

Mr Brown was speaking at the end of a tumultuous week in which Labour rebels had finally forced the PM to set a departure date - after which pro-Blairites led by former Home Secretary Charles Clarke reacted furiously by launching a diatribe of abuse at the Chancellor.

He was branded psychologically flawed, a "deluded control freak", a loner, and even "stupid".

But Mr Brown was having none of it - and went out of his way to make clear he is thinking and preparing to tackle far weightier matters than simply how to secure for himself the job of Prime Minister.

He also invited the News of the World into his family home and spoke for the first time about he is coping with becoming a Dad again and how his family always comes first.

While aides scurried in and out of his cluttered family kitchen, the Chancellor first warned how the civil war raging in the Labour Party would only succeed in driving away potential voters.

He made it clear he had initially believed the Labour unrest had been calmed by Mr Blair's announcement this week of his departure plans, and his shock at how the issue had been savagely reignited this weekend by Mr Clarke and Blair supporters.

He stressed: “We have all got to prove at every moment that we are doing the right thing for the country and we must never forget that the electorate are the final judge.”

He also made it clear that briefings from Downing Street suggesting that he and his supporters tried to mount a coup last week were totally wide of the mark.

Brown blasted: “That is completely untrue. I was not accused (by the Prime Minister) of that.”

Mr Brown also repeatedly insisted he did NOT orchestrate last week’s resignation of junior minister Tom Watson and seven ministerial aides. Mr Brown said: “There is no truth in the suggestion there was an attempted coup.”

The day before Mr Watson quit he visited the Chancellor’s home with a baby gift. But when the News of the World asked Mr Brown if they discussed the rebel’s resignation, he simply replied: “Tom Watson’s decision surprised me and he has made it clear he has never talked to me about any of this.

"The situation was sad, regrettable and caused us a great deal of grief."

Alluding to Charles Clarke’s criticisms and left wing rebels who want to take him on in a leadership contest, he said: “If people decide they want to stand when there is a leadership contest, whenever that happens, they should feel free to do so.

"I welcome the chance to put my views but people should be given the chance to put their views.

"I welcome a debate about new ideas and future policy and I welcome the fact that there are people with great talent within the Labour party.

"If people are going to stand in any future leadership contest then they are welcome to do so. They are not only free to do so but they should do so if that's what they want. I'm very open to all this."

But he warned that the anti-Brown faction, and attacks like Mr Clarke's, risk creating the very Labour Party split that everyone claim's they want to avoid.

“We have got to also recognise that there is no ideological divide within the mainstream Labour Party and we should not try to suggest that there is.”

However he couldn't resist also appearing to pile pressure on the Prime Minister to be clear with the public when he is going to stand down.

The Chancellor said: “This is not a time for deals, this is not a time for private statements.

“There is an issue, obviously, when a Prime Minister says that he is not going to contest the next election.

“It is for Tony to make a decision and to announce that in his own time, I do believe that is the right thing to do.”

Over the past three days, Brown has been subject to an unprecedented attack from his former Cabinet colleague, ex-Home Secretary Charles Clarke.

Clarke started by slamming Brown for being snapped with a broad grin as he left Downing Street.

Brown last night said the claims were ridiculous, while his aiodes labelled them “pathetic”.

He explained: “He was referring to me smiling and said I was sneaking out of Downing Street by the back door - I was actually simply coming out of my office in Downing Street!

“A photographer with a long lens got me joking to one of the people who works with me about my young family.

“There was nothing else, I didn't know the photograph was being taken. And the idea I sought a photograph like this is laughable. It comes to something when people criticise me for smiling.”

In a series of interviews, Clarke accused him of grinning for the cameras and slammed his leadership qualities.

Clarke claimed he was a “deluded control freak” with “psychological” issues that nmade him unsuitable to be Prime Minister, mocking: “Can a leopard change his spots.”

Brown warned that such attacks would quickly make the Labour Party unsuitable for government.

Deliberately contrasting himself from anti-Brownites touring the television studios, he said: “I have never for a minute, in all these discussions, taken my eye off the central question which is my duty to the country.

“That is to create economic stability and growth.

“Every day MY first thoughts are how I conduct my job as Chancellor in the interests of the country.

“I will not shirk from any of these responsibilites or fail to discharge them. These are the issues I will be judged upon.”

Mr Brown repeatedly insisted he had not orchestrated the letter sent to the Prime Minister that led to the resignation of junior minister Tom Watson and seven ministerial aides.

However, Mr Brown did meet Mr Watson the day before he sent the letter .

Watson visited the Chancellor’s Fife home to drop off a gift for his new baby, Fraser. But Mr Brown claimed: “I did not discuss the letter and it would not have been appropriate to do so.”

He added: “There is no truth in the suggestion that there was an attempted coup.”

"Tom Watson's decision surprised me and he has made it very clear that he has never talked to me about any of this. The situation was sad, regrettable and caused us a great deal of grief. "

But he defended the rebels disquiet by pointing out: “People HAVE had questions about the future.

“Where people feel strongly about it obviously that has led to events happening - but now we have all got to come together.”

And when asked if he would have the rebels back in government his response was extremely significant.

Mr Brown said: “I think what has happened is sad but I hope that people can come together in the future. "

Pressed if Watson and the others could reappear in a Brown government, he made its clear it is entirely possible ""We don't know where we are going to be in the future - we don't know even if I am going to be in Downing Street so we can't draw any conclusions at the moment about any of these things.

Mr Brown also insisted that reports of a series of blazing rows between him and the Prime Minister on Wednesday as they haggled over his departure are untrue.

He explained: “It is simply not true to say that there has been an argument or bickering.

“When we met that day we were obviously discussing the question of the leadership.

“What I said to him about that decision was what I had said before - that it was a decision for him. It was pretty clear that there was no basis for argument.”

“Just like every member of the public is saying, something has got to be sorted out in the next few years. Like anybody here we have all got the same question. But that does not mean to say I am wanting to have a particular answer. The decision is for him.”

But he also used his answer to emphasise yet again what he sees as the difference betweden him and the PM now.

While the PM's men are busy ensuring their man is going out in a blaze of personal glory, the man who is certain he will be Britain's next Prime Minister is getting down to the hard business of government.

He explained: “We also spent more important time discussing Palestine and Israel, Afghanistan, discussing the forthcoming spending review, discussing the pre budget report when I will be commenting on the state of the economy.

Mr Brown was at pains to stress that while potential leadership rivals plot and spin against him, he will be getting on with governing the country.

He will continue to play with a straight bat, supporting the increasingly beleaguered Tony Blair, adding: “The Labour Party has been united under Tony Blair's leadership and the idea there is some personal ideological divide between me and Tony is ridiculous.

“We have known each other for 20 years, we grew up politically together and we have made many difficult decisions together."

He claimed straight-faced: “This idea that there is personal tension between us this week that led to a vicious argument is completely wrong.”

With the autumn party conferences looming, Mr Brown hinted that his own leadership campaign will soon be underway.

After his conferences speeches he has the Pre Budget Report in November, and the three-year Comprehensive Spending Review early next year.

While his rivals tour the television studios, Mr Brown will be moving around the country.

He explained: “I am going to be going around the country after the pre-budget report and the spending review and we will be having hearings and events in every part of the country over the next few months.

“We will be listening to what people have to say as we prepare the next stage of our policies and my priority will be to listen to peoples questions and views and get a real sense of the issues that are affecting them: how we can ensure our children are better educated, how we can keep people more fit and have a more healthy society, how we can improve the National Health Service, how we can help savings for people."

Pointedly dismissed Blairite claims he's a political control freak, , “I will be joined by ministers - though I will be taking the lead.”

Asked if was indeed a 'control freak', he said: "Not at all. I would describe myself as a team player. I've been doing just that for over 20 years.

"My favourite sport is rugby and rugby is about teamwork and teamwork is the essence of what we do in Government.

However, he added honestly: "As Chancellor you've got to say no to people. You've got to be strong, you've got to control public expenditure.

"Often I have had to say no. There is no chancellor that has emerged in the last 20 or 30 years who hasn't been criticised for being tough with people."

It is known that when Mr Clarke was Home Secretary he clashed with the Chancellor about budget issues.

Mr Brown commented: "You have to take the rough and tumble of politics. Sometimes you think it's not fair but you just get on with the job.

"You are bound to have people saying that's a decision that I didn't want. The Chancellor is in the difficult position of having to tell his colleagues 'no'.

"And I did have to say 'no'. Sometimes people don't fully realise that the Chancellor has to adjudicate claims for public expenditure. So there are bound to people who feel they are hard done by."

And he summed up the current in-fighting in the Labour Party with a bleak warning about the consequences of a bitter fight over Tony Blair’s future.

He explained: “The question is, is there some fundamental unbridgeable divide inside the Labour Party on either ideology or anything else? The answer is no.

"I am supportive of the Government's foreign policy. There are big issues ahead but all in the context of policy's set by Tony which I support.

"That includes Iraq and the difficult decisions that have been made there and in Afghanistan."

"NHS reform will continue - nobody should be in any doubt about my determination to continue reform right across the public services. There will be no reversal on reforms. We are moving forward not backward."

Sunday, September 03, 2006



By Rob Kellaway

Police investigating a terrorist plot intended “to out-do 7/7” have uncovered the first al-Qaeda training camp in Britain.

It was being run at an Islamic school in the sleepy Sussex countryside.

Fourteen Muslims arrested over the alleged plot to take out a London landmark are linked to terror camps run in the school’s grounds, hidden from unwitting staff.

One of the 14 is hate cleric Abu Abdullah. Dubbed Attila The Scum, he is hook-handed monster Abu Hamza's No 2.

Abdullah, 42, who was born and bred in Britain, was detained just days after stating he would “love” to kill British troops in Afghanistan.

He is regarded by anti-terror detectives as a key figure in their investigation into a plot which an intelligence source said would “out-do 7/7.”

The arrests came after a nine-month surveillance operation involving MI5, which centred on suspects visiting the Jameah Islameah Islamic school in picturesque Catt’s Hill, near Crowborough.

Police took action on Friday night when the group gathered together at a Chinese restaurant called The Bridge To China Town in Borough Road, south London.

Owner Mehdi Belyani, 40, said the detained men were among a group of around 15 males and two small boys who came in for dinner.

He said some wore Islamic dress and they were talking quietly and acting normally while they ate from the restaurant buffet. Some he recognised as regular customers.

Mr Belyani said some armed officers and more than 50 others wearing helmets came into his restaurant at 10pm and kept the suspects and all the other customers inside.

He said: “The police stayed for more than two hours talking to the group one by one. The men were very calm and I could not hear what was being said.”

Ross Jackson, 18, who lives opposite, said: “There were about eight police vans and a large number of police in riot gear. There were police cars lined up on the street.”

At 10pm eight men were arrested at the restaurant. Three who had already left - including Abdullah - were arrested around the corner in Lancaster Street.

At the same time, another suspect - Bilbert Teye Baiden - was held in King James Street. Mousa Aboullah Brown, 40, was grabbed on Kitchener Road, E17, while Saloum Joh, 20, was held in Bessborough Road, SW15.

The men, mostly British Muslims of Pakistani origin aged 17 to 48, were being held at Paddington Green high security police station.

Security sources said the investigation was focusing on terror training and alleged recruitment and radicalisation of young British Muslims.

They believe the group was still in the early stages of planning the twisted attack on a famous London attraction.

Possible targets are thought to include Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, Canary Wharf or the Arsenal and Chelsea football stadiums.

Detectives believe more than half of those arrested in London had visited the Islamic school more than once.

The school, which has just 12 pupils in a £3 million former convent, frequently allowed outside groups to use its 54 acres of grounds at weekends.

The arrested men stayed in the school and used the grounds for “combat” training.

A Home Office source said: “The training was extreme and macho. It involved endurance in bad weather and bonding. In that sense it was like combat training.”

The source added: “They were being groomed for terror.”

Neither the owner, principal or any member of the staff of the school had any idea that fanatics were among their visitors.

Indeed, when Abu Hamza once turned up, the school’s authorities were so alarmed they banned him from coming again and handed over a letter expressing his views to police.

The school’s Imam Bilal Patel said: “When Hamza arrived we were immediately concerned about his strange behaviour. He and his followers set up camp in the grounds and they kept themselves to themselves.

“We had to tell Abu Hamza that we did not want him to come back again because he was strange. He had given me a letter explaining some of his views and I passed that on to the local police.”

One man who lives 500 yards from the school said: “Busloads of young Muslims would turn up on a Sunday in several red London buses, stay for a few hours and then leave.”

The man, who asked not to be identified, added: “No one ever knew what went on inside. Everything was extremely hush-hush. There seemed to be an unwritten rule that no-one ever spoke about what went on inside.”

Abdullah, real name Attila Ahmet, is a former spokesman for hook-handed Hamza, who was jailed for seven years in February for inciting his followers to murder non-muslims.

The No 2 is reviled for his anti-Western rants and for his hatred of Jews and gays.

He took over as the self-styled “emir” or leader of the extremist Supporters Of Shariah founded by Hamza at the notorious Finsbury Park Mosque in north London.

He was accused of taking control of the mosque when it reopened in August 2004 by using violence and intimidation but was evicted in February last year.

And Abdullah — who once said of Osama Bin Laden “I love him more than myself” - is banned from preaching in most mosques but claims to have 3,000 supporters.

He spreads his twisted messages at small-scale meetings to specially invited “students” in private houses and community centres.

Those views include supporting the use of household chemicals to make explosives.

He also believes Tony Blair is a legitimate target for assassination due to the government’s foreign policy. His view of the 9/11 attacks is that they were a “deserved punch in the nose” for America.

Abdullah converted to Islam eight years ago. His hardline views seem a world away from his upbringing.

He was born and bred in London, the son of Turkish-Cypriot parents. He was a football coach in the Bexley youth league, and was known to colleagues as Alan. The married father-of-four lives with his family in a terraced former council house in south-east London.

Two weeks ago he was asked what he thought of the 7/7 suicide bombers. He replied: “I wasn’t against them. These are my honourable brothers in Islam.”

He described the Tube and bus bombs in which 52 innocent people died, as a wake-up call. And he has said: “Sometimes the innocent have to pay the price.”

Abdullah also claimed suicide attacks are “halal”, or lawful.

He added: “The martyr that goes amongst his enemies is going to shield his people. He doesn’t have weapons of mass destruction, he only has household chemicals.”

Referring to Iraq and Afghanistan he said: “The West is escalating their killing of Muslims. We have a right to defend ourselves. If I had the means to go back there and kill an American or British soldier then I would love to do so.

“Those who are fighting Islam are targets: Tony Blair, the army, the police.”

Asked if he shared the view of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that Israel should be wiped off the map, he replied: “Absolutely. They are a treacherous people.”

He also said President Bush was “a scalp that needs to be taken.”

Speaking on the CNN news channel, Abdullah claimed the deaths of the 9/11 victims were “a drop in the ocean compared to the millions of Muslims that have been killed.”