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A BRITISH Muslim extremist who praised the 9-11 hijackers and boasted about wanting to become a suicide bomber claims he has renounced violence and now regrets his "evil" past.

University of Wolverhampton drop-out Hassan Butt first gained notoriety in Britain after the Sunday Mercury tracked him down to his hideout in Lahore, Pakistan, in November 2001.

The 25 year-old claimed to have recruited tens of British Muslims to travel to Afghanistan to fight against British and other Western forces.

Since then he has regularly appeared in the media as the voice of radical Islam - amid calls for him to be prosecuted for his firebrand speeches.

After the death of four British Muslims at the hands of US soldiers in Afghanistan in 2002, Butt told the Mercury: "I wish the same happens to me. Their deaths are something to be celebrated.

"They are an inspiration to British Muslims everywhere who should try and emulate them.

"I would have no hesitation in killing a British soldier who is oppressing Islam.

"It is my religious duty to fight and kill infidels anywhere I find them."

Anti-terrorist officers twice arrested Butt under the Anti-Terrorism Act 2000, but they were forced to release him without charge after failing to gather enough evidence.

They even confiscated his passport, which he is still trying to get back, but were unable to bring him before a court on any terrorist-related charges.

Now Butt, who lives in Manchester, claims to have changed his radical ways and instead warned against the growing "cancer" of Islamic extremism.

He said the July 7, 2005, suicide bombings of three subways and a bus in London led him to question and ultimately abandon his commitment to radicalism.

Butt also said that no religious leaders were able to convince him that violence was sanctioned by Islam.

"I've come to realise that killing in the name of Islam is completely and utterly prohibited," he said.

"There's a big disease and a cancer in the Muslim world and it needs to be dealt with."

In an interview with an American television channel, Butt admitted that he had recruited between 50 and 70 Britons who were sent to extremist training camps in Pakistan.

"We'd talk about the suffering of the Muslims all over the world," he said.

"We were very well-versed in the Koran and in the sayings of the Prophet and we would show how it was permissible for people to go around killing innocent men, women and children."

Butt revealed how one tactic to find impressionable recruits was to focus on young men who were being forced into arranged marriages.

The conflict with their parents' traditions often provided an opening for radical Islamic preachers to gain a hold over them.

He said: "A lot of guys I know have become radicalized, or initially took the first steps towards learning more about Islam and their way of life, as aresult of them being forced to marry someone they don't want to marry."

Butt claims to have been a principal fundraiser for jihadist groups in Pakistan and the Middle East and said he collected at least EUR300,000 from Western sympathisers, mainly doctors and young professionals.

And in a bizarre pact with British Muslim drug-dealers, Butt explained how they were given special dispensation to sell drugs to non-Muslims as long as they donated 20 per cent of their profits.

"We told them that the 20 per cent would legitimize them in Islamic eyes and that the rest of their income was purified," Butt said.

"As long as the drugs weren't being sold to other Muslims, they were being sold to non-Muslims.

"In fact, we saw it as a tactic of war. One of the people that I sat with said, 'Well, let's keep poisoning the non-Muslim community in the West. Let's feed their addiction."

Butt also blamed the government's lax attitude towards radical Muslim leaders inside Britain prior to the 2005 bombings as a factor which made recruitment easier.

Asked if he considered the work he used to do bad, Butt replied: "Yeah, absolutely, not just bad work. I mean, bad is an understatement. It's evil, wicked work."

He said the only way to combat rising Islamic radicalism was for moderate Muslims to now "pluck up the courage to ask questions, regardless of the consequences."

Butt also told how he had received death threats and that his family had labelled him a traitor since he renounced extremism.


RABBLE-ROUSER: Hassan Butt rallies against the West on the streets of Lahore, Pakistan; TURNING POINT: the July 7, 2005, London bombings changed Hassan Butt's views
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Apr 15, 2007
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