December 27, 2001
LONDON The leader of a south
London mosque, whose members once included a man now suspected
of trying to detonate explosives aboard an airliner, says
police failed to act on repeated warnings that radicals were
recruiting young Muslims.
Richard C. Reid, who
formerly attended the Brixton mosque, was overpowered by
flight attendants and passengers after he allegedly tried to
detonate explosives in his sneaker aboard an American Airlines
flight from Paris to Miami on Saturday.
Abdul Haqq Baker,
leader of the mosque, said Reid also known as Abdel Rahim
drifted away from the Brixton community after falling under
the influence of radicals.
``We have been in
contact with the police numerous times over the last five
years to warn of the threat posed by militant groups operating
in our area,'' Baker was quoted as saying in Thursday's
editions of The Times.
``Only now are they
bothering to follow it up. My fear is this is all too little
Reid has been charged
with intimidation or assault of a flight crew and could face
20 years in prison. He is being held in jail under suicide
watch pending a psychological examination.
According to news
reports, Reid was born in south London in 1973, the son of a
Jamaican father and an English mother. He joined the Brixton
mosque in 1996 after serving a prison sentence for street
crimes, the reports said. Scotland Yard has declined to give
any details of Reid's record.
Reid joined the mosque
at about the same time as Zacarias Moussaoui, a Frenchman of
Moroccan descent charged in the United States with conspiracy
in connection with the Sept. 11, Baker said.
ABC News reported
Wednesday that European authorities have evidence of contact
between Moussaoui and Reid late last year, and that the two
spent time together in a training camp in Afghanistan run by
Usama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.
ABC News quoted
unidentified sources as saying that some Al Qaeda suspects
detained in Afghanistan have identified Reid from pictures
shown to them by interrogators.
``At the end of
Zacarias Moussaoui being in the community and spouting off his
views, it was true that Mr. Reid was attending at the same
time,'' Baker said. ``I'm pretty confident they were attending
the extreme scholarship classes being held by some of the
extremists who could not attend our center.''
Talking to reporters
on Wednesday, Baker said he doubted that Reid could have acted
``He was one who was
easily led the way the whole thing was bungled is because of
his naivety,'' Baker said.
``The way he tried to
commit this act shows his gullibility. He was sent as a tester
though he was not to know that. We are confident he was not
The mosque, located in
a row of Victorian houses, has a young, multicultural
membership that includes a large number of converts. It
teaches ``basic, mainstream orthodox'' Islam, but has
attracted some ``extreme elements'' who targeted enthusiastic
converts like Reid, Baker said.
Baker suggested Reid
might have had contact with more radical mosques such as the
Finsbury Park mosque in north London, home of militant
Egyptian-born cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri.
Al-Masri said he had
no knowledge of Reid.
``I don't know about
the guy, actually,'' he told the BBC.
still attempting to confirm the suspect's identity. London's
Times newspaper and a French police official both have
identified Reid as a British petty criminal with an English
mother and a Jamaican father.
After the man's arrest
Saturday, French officials initially said they thought he was
from Sri Lanka, but Sri Lanka said later he was not a
A report Tuesday in
France's La Provence newspaper, citing police and
intelligence sources, said Reid had belonged to an Islamic
movement called Tabliq but left because he said it was ``not
radical enough'' for him.
The FBI has said more
charges are likely.
Head of security firm
IVTC Lior Zucker said his security officers recommended Friday
and Saturday that French authorities take a closer look at
Reid. ICTS does security screening for American Airlines in
France and in other European countries.
Zucker would not go
into details about why his agents were suspicious of