Covert to jihad whose travels took him to bin Laden

By Reda Hassaine and Sean O’Neill, Times Online, 9 may 2005

MOHAMMED MEGUERBA is the youngest of three children and was born in Belcourt, Central Algiers. His father, a wealthy businessman, divorced his mother when Meguerba was two. She emigrated to France.

Neighbours in Algiers remember Meguerba as a devout young man who prayed regularly. He began to travel extensively and in 1996 arrived in Dublin. He met Sharon Gray, who was training to be a beautician, and married her the following year.

Eight months later Ms Gray fled to her parents’ home in the west of Ireland complaining that “Frank”, as Meguerba called himself, had become violent and possessive. She won a non-molestation order in the courts and had the marriage annulled last year.

In 1999 Meguerba fell in with a group of hardline Islamists at a mosque in Belfast. They persuaded him to travel, via London, to Afghanistan where he could train to join the jihad.

In his later interrogations, Meguerba told of life in the Afghan camps and said that he had met Osama bin Laden several times.

As al-Qaeda prepared for the 9/11 attacks and the expected American retaliation, Meguerba and many other activists were dispatched to the West.

He flew from Tehran to Amsterdam on August 30, 2001, on a false passport and was detained by immigration authorities at Schiphol airport.

Meguerba was held for almost six months and had five asylum appeals rejected. Twice he was presented to the Algerian Embassy but refused to return to Algeria.

In February 2002 he was suddenly released and travelled to Paris where he obtained a passport at the Algerian Embassy. Meguerba then went to Turin and in March 2002 arrived in London.

In September that year Meguerba was arrested in London during an operation into suspected terrorist fundraising.

Released on bail, he said that he was encouraged by others at the Finsbury Park mosque to return to Algeria and join the Dhamat Houmet Daawa Salafia group. This group is designated by the UN Security Council as a terrorist group with links to al-Qaeda.

Meguerba travelled to Manchester, staying at the same flat where Bourgass would later fatally stab DC Stephen Oake and in October 2002 flew from Liverpool to Barcelona. From Spain he went to Morocco and in December 2002 crossed the border into Algeria to meet contacts from his group.

But they were being watched by the Algerian authorities and the group was arrested close to the border on December 16.

Meguerba remained in secret detention until April last year when his relatives were told that he was in prison.

Printable version

Jury anger over threat of torture (Guardian, 21.05.05)

The ricin ring that never was (The Guardian, 14.05.05)

Fears Algerians may be tortured if sent back (Guardian, 14.05.05)

I was tortured, says ricin plotter (Times Online, 09.05.05)

Covert to jihad whose travels took him to bin Laden (Times Online, 09.05.05)

The politics of poison (The Guardian, 15.04.05)

Milburn tries to defuse row with apology for officer's death (The Guardian, 15.04.05)

The ricin ring that never was (Dossier The Guardian, 14.04.05)