LONDON: Mastermind of London Bridge attack Khurram Shehzad Butt campaigned against the state of Pakistan frequently and called for the overthrow of democratic system.
Working under the banner of Al-Muhajiroun and its offshoots (Al Ghurabaa, The Saviour Sect, Islam4UK), Khurram Butt took part in demonstrations held outside Pakistan High Commission, Regent’s Park Mosque and at venues in Southall, East London and Luton.
Butt took part and helped organise many demonstrations and road shows of the banned organisation Al-Muhajiroun along with the hate preachers Mizanur Rahman, also known as Abu Baraa, and Anjem Choudary, the leading figure in the banned group who is in jail these days. Anjem Choudary and his associates ran campaigns against Pakistan army, when Pervez Musharraf was the army chief, for being part of the “war on terror” and called for the overthrow of Musharraf through violent means and called him “Busharraf”.
Rahman and Choudary were jailed for five and a half years in September last year for urging Britons to join Daesh and get involved in killings.
Its understood that Khurram Butt participated in a road show organised in Southall, West London, on the independence day of Pakistan in 2015. The group was calling for the implementation of Shariah law in Pakistan. The group said Sharia law was needed in Pakistan and declared democratic system as “haram” and “kuffer”. The placards carried on that occasion – and during demonstrations outside High Commission and Regent’s Park Mosque – read ”Pakistan Kufr State”.
On that occasion, a group of young Pakistani boys and girls holding green flags and chanting the slogans ”Pakistan ka matlab kya, La Ilaha Ilallah” confronted the banned group on the streets of Southall.
Khurram Butt was a trusted follower of Anjem Choudary when the Al-Muhajiroun leader announced in November 2012 that he will hold a conference in Islamabad’s Red (Lal) Mosque to formally launch movement for the implementation of Shariah. For that purpose Anjem Choudary and his followers, including Khurram Butt, had set up a website called Sharia4Pakistan.
In an interview with this correspondent, published on 19 November 2012 in The News & Jang, Anjem Choudary had said that he wanted to hold the conference “Sharia4Pakistan” in association with the Lal Masjid administration on November 30 to declare “fatwa on Malala Yousafzai” as well as civil and military leaders. He had claimed that his organisation Al-Muhajiroun, which was banned in Britain and Pakistan at that time, had widespread support amongst the Lal Masjid students.
But as soon as the story was published in The News, Islamabad’s Lal Masjid distanced itself from the ultra-radical London preacher and his fatwas against several Pakistani public figures including Malala Yousufzai.
Amir Siddique, who was a Naib khatib at the mosque at that time, called this correspondent and denounced Al-Muhajiroun group and its leaders Omar Bakri and Anjem Chaudhry. Amir Siddique said that his mosque students – or administration – had never been in contact with Anjem Choudary. Amir Siddique said: “To call Pakistan’s constitution un-Islamic is Anjem Chaudhry’s personal thinking and it’s wrong. People like him create problems for Muslims in Europe and Pakistan. We accept Pakistan’s constitution and respect it.”
Khurram Butt helped Anjem Choudary organize demonstrations outside Pakistan High Commission in which calls were made for the overthrow of the government and its replacement with a regime which would implement Shariah in the country and end alliance with the western countries.
Pakistan’s High Commissioner to the UK at that time was so agitated by these protests and threats of intimidation that he had drawn the attention of Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) to the activities of people linked to the defunct Al-Muhajiroun and Hizbut Tahrir.
“We have stated that these groups are banned in Pakistan and openly active in the UK and I have seen their membership growing in the last 17 years of living in the UK but the UK authorities don’t seem to take the threat of these groups seriously,” Wajid had told The News in an interview.
He had told The News that Pakistanis had always rejected the religious parties in elections and it will be only right if the entry of hate-preachers in Pakistan was banned. The News had approached the Home Office seeking its response about the anti-Pakistani activities of these groups and the websites being run from London as well as Anjem Choudary’s threat of going to Pakistan to issue fatwa. The Home Office had said it was for Pakistan to decide what to do to those visiting the country. She said it was up to “local police forces to shut down websites if they break the law”.
Khurram Butt and Anjem Choudary routinely stood outside the Regent’s Park mosque and called governments of Islamic countries “corrupt” and made Pakistan a particular target. Anjem Choudery had followers from every nationality but he concentrated mainly on Bangladeshi and Pakistani-descent youth such as Khurram Butt to use them for further recruitment.
Khurram Butt’s neighbours told Geo News that he never socialized with Pakistani neighbours and remained aloof from them because of their moderate way of life. Asim Uddin, a residence of the same building in Barking where Khurram Butt resided, told Geo News that Butt hardly spoke any Urdu, always preferred not to hang around with Pakistanis and was seen with bearded men of Middle Eastern origin.
He was thrown out of the local Mosque for campaigning against the vote during Friday sermon in 2015. Khurram Butt participated in a demonstration of Al-Muhajiroun at Hyde Park London, carrying the black flags of Islamic State.
Al-Muhajiroun arranged a furious protest of angry men against the then Conservative Shadow Minister Sayeeda Warsi on the streets of Luton and thew eggs at her while she campaigned for elections.
The Scotland Yard, MI5 and the Home Office are now facing a number of questions after the London Bridge attack in which eight innocent people lost their lives. Former London Mayor Boris Johnson has said that questions need to be answered by the security authorities over the monitoring of Khurram Butt.
He had appeared on the radar of security forces and was investigated in 2015 but was prioritized in the lower echelons after officers found no evidence to suggest an attack as being planned. He appeared in the 2016 Channel 4 Islamic extremist documentary ”The Jihadis Next Door”. One of his friends reported him to anti-terror hotline in 2015 for showing the signs of extremism.
Mark Rowley, Assistant Commissioner MET Police defended the actions of authorities by saying, ”At any one time MI5 and police are conducting around 500 active investigations, involving 3000 subjects of interest and additionally there are around twenty thousand individuals who are former subjects of interest, who’s risk remains subject to review”.
Al-Muhajiroun and Hizb-ut-Tahrir didn’t work together while campaigning against Pakistan but their campaign carried the same message. During one of his meetings with the then Prime Minister Tony Blair, Pervez Mushararf had accused Britain of harbouring extremists who wanted to overthrow his government and encouraged religiously violent extremism.
Several leading Muslim figures have come forward and said – including Muhammad Shafique and Dr Usama Hasan – that they were verbally abused and threatened by Khurram Butt and he was reported to the police and the intelligence agencies but no action was taken.