A Pakistani terrorist jailed for six years in 2007 came to the UK on a student visa and later settled in the area where four of this week’s alleged al-Qaida bomb plot suspects lived.
Abdul Rahman acted as a recruiting sergeant for British Muslims to join the “Holy War” and was the first person in Britain to be convicted of a charge of disseminating terrorist information.
Rahman and his associates filmed each other training in the Lake District as they crawled across a snow-covered mountain while firing imaginary guns.
He arrived in the UK on a four-year student visa in September 2004 and enrolled at university in Dundee for a biotechnology course.
However, he quit the next day saying he was “unable to settle in the culture” and moved to the Cheetham Hill area of Manchester where he met up with other young radicals, including another Pakistani national who entered Britain on a student visa.
The 26-year-old was also connected to the recent “invisible ink bomb plot” masterminded by Rochdale-born Rangzieb Ahmed and assisted by Cheetham Hill taxi driver Habib Ahmed. His mobile phone number was written in invisible ink in a diary handled by the two men.
Eleven Pakistani nationals – of which at least 10 hold student visas – were arrested in the north-west of England on Wednesday over what British Prime Minister Gordon Brown labelled as a “very big terrorist plot”.
Two suspects were arrested at a terraced house in Galsworthy Avenue, Cheetham Hill, and two others were held at the Cyber Net Cafe in nearby Cheetham Hill Road.
Pakistan’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom warned not enough was being done to carry out security checks on foreign students, while security experts said it could be a new tactic by al-Qaida to “import” terrorism.
But links between Pakistani nationals on student visas and Cheetham Hill in north Manchester were revealed at Rahman’s court appearance in Manchester in November 2007.
It emerged that the 25-year-old lived in a shared house in Heywood Street and began a regime of martial arts training while working as a mobile phone salesman.
He joined up with former school friend Aslam Awan, 26, who himself arrived on a student visa in 2002, and Karachi-born Muhammed Muraad Iqbal, 29.
It is understood Awan worked at Primark clothes store in Manchester city centre and Iqbal was employed at Capital One credit company in Nottingham.
Manchester Crown Court heard Rahman was later caught in possession of a “call to arms” letter sent from Awan who had left the UK to fight the coalition forces in Afghanistan.
Awan’s letter was to be passed to others to “spread the word” for their cause of inducing others to terrorism.
It told of the “divine law of religion” which ruled in Taliban-held areas and described the fighting and the “fragrance of blood” from the battlefield.
The letter stated: “We have to do this work even with our last drop of blood. Please do migrate and encourage others to migrate too. Please invite everybody towards this cause.”
When police raided the Heywood Street address they found computer discs of speeches which told of the killing of Muslims in Afghanistan and Chechnya, and exhorted Muslim mothers: “Rather than raise coward disco boys, raise brave crusaders.”
Rahman pleaded guilty to possessing articles for the purpose of terrorism and dissemination of terrorist propaganda.
He also admitted aiding or abetting the breach of a control order by giving £480 to a British-born Muslim to evade the authorities by flying out from Birmingham Airport to Pakistan in January 2007.
Rahman attempted to later post a package to the man, containing mobile phones and combat knives.
Sentencing him, Judge Clement Goldstone QC recommended his deportation after he served his jail term.
Wanted terror suspects Awan and Muraad Iqbal are believed to be hiding out in the North West Frontier province of Pakistan and both were banned by the Home Secretary from re-entering Britain.
The former address of the terror cell in Heywood Street was just two streets away from Habib Ahmed’s home in Elmfield Street.
Habib Ahmed, 29, was jailed for 10 years at Manchester Crown Court in December last year – nine for being a member of al-Qaida and an additional year for possessing a document for terror-related purposes.
He assisted Rangzieb Ahmed, 33, of Fallowfield, Manchester, who was the first person to be convicted in the UK of directing terrorism. Rangzieb was given a life sentence and ordered to serve a minimum of 10 years after a jury found him guilty of heading a three-man active al-Qaida service cell which was preparing to commit mass murder.
The mobile phone numbers of both Rahman and Awan appeared in diaries held by the pair which were described in court as a “contact book for terrorists”.
Counter-terrorism chiefs in Greater Manchester were not sure where Rangzieb Ahmed was planning to strike but they were convinced an attack was imminent.
His scheme was uncovered when he passed three diaries to Habib Ahmed, no relation, to bring into the UK from Dubai.
The diaries appeared largely blank but actually contained details of key al-Qaida operatives written in invisible ink.
The phone number of the terror group’s former No 3, Hamza Rabia, was among the diary entries.
Rabia was understood to be the ultimate controller of Rangzieb’s unknown foreign mission which was postponed when he was blown up in an explosion in December 2005.
Sentencing Rangzieb, Mr Justice Saunders said he was satisfied he was “dedicated to the cause of Islamic terrorism”.
“You are an intelligent, capable and superficially reasonable man who is involved in terrorism.
“That makes you an extremely dangerous man.”