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'Five Britons died fighting for the Taliban in Mazar'

'Five Britons died fighting for the Taliban in Mazar'

Author: Cahal Milmo
Publication: The Independent, UK
Date: November 17, 2001

Five British Muslims have been killed while fighting for the Taliban in the strategic city of Mazar-i-Sharif captured by Northern Alliance troops last week, it was claimed yesterday.

The British-based Islamic extremist group al-Muhajiroun aid the men, led by a 24-year old Londoner calling himself Abdul Salim were "martyrs" who had died with other foreign volunteers.

It was unclear last night when the men died or whether they were among more than 500 mostly Pakistani fighters who were massacred by opposition forces when they took Mazar eight days ago.

The deaths bring to nine the number of British Muslims believed to have been lolled in Afghanistan since the beginning of the American-led bombing campaign and Northern Alliance assault.

Hundreds of pro-Taliban Britons are claimed to be in the region. The Government has warned they could face prosecution on return to Britain after four men were killed in Kabul at the end of October.

Al-Muhajiroun named two of the latest men to have died along with Salim, of Whitechapel, east London, as Zulfikar Ahmed, 28, from Leicester, and Abu Waheed, 26, from Crawley, West Sussex.

Hassan Butt, the group's spokesman in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, refused to give the names of the remaining two Britons from the group, who entered Afghanistan about 1 November. Mr Butt said: "They all died as mm" fighting the so-called coalition against terrorism.

"They went out there to fight for the Taliban and were prepared to give their lives. We still believe the Taliban have not been defeated. We will be sending more volunteers, money and weapons to them."

The spokesman said he knew of 100 Britons who were with the Taliban in Afghanistan along with 700 waiting in Pakistan, of all whom were "ready to die".

Before crossing into Afghanistan, Mr Salim, who described himself as a Bangladeshi but admitted using a pseudonym, posed for pictures and gave an interview in which he declared his devotion to al-Qa'ida.

He said: "I think Osama bin Laden is an inspiration to Muslims. He is a man from a high-class family who is sleeping in a cave and giving all his worldly goods to Islam. I have not seen anything in what he says that contradicts Islam."

Mr Salim, who was said by al-Muhajiroun to have worked as a civil engineer, was travelling with a 21-year-old telecommunications engineer from Ilford, east London, calling himself Abdullah.

Both men said they had spent up to four months with al Qa'ida in an training camp in Afghanistan training in sabotage and hand-to-hand combat. It was not clear whether Abdullah was among the dead.

There was also confusion last night over the names of the five. Muslim community leaders in Whitechapel, Leicester and Crawley said they had not heard of the men. An al-Muhajiroun spokesman in London said it had not been informed of the deaths.

The Foreign Office said it would be impossible for the British authorities to independently verify any deaths of injuries to UK nationals in the current situation in Afghanistan.

The latest fatalities follow the deaths of three men from Luton and another man, Yasir Khan, also from Crawley, at the end of October.

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