Hate preacher who inspired terror attackers pictured after release

Notorious hate preacher Omar Bakri Muhammad whose group inspired Lee Rigby killers and London Bridge attackers is seen in family photo after Lebanon prison release

  • The extremist inspired a generation of jihadis after founding a terrorist group
  • He was arrested an imprisoned in 2014 for supporting al-Qaeda in Lebanon

Relaxing on the sofa in a pair of slippers, notorious hate preacher Omar Bakri Muhammad was barely recognisable yesterday after being set free following nearly a decade behind bars.

Pictured here for the first time, the extremist who inspired a generation of jihadis after founding a banned terrorist group has been in prison since 2014 when he was arrested for supporting al-Qaeda in Lebanon.

Yesterday legal sources confirmed the 64-year-old had finally been released from jail after serving long beyond his six-year sentence.

His release has sparked security fears that he could resume preaching online brainwashing a new generation of British Muslims.

Dr Alan Mendoza, Executive Director of the Henry Jackson Society think tank warned: ‘Omar Bakri Muhammad was one of the most dangerous extremist preachers in his prime, inspiring many to acts of jihadism.

Relaxing on the sofa in a pair of slippers, Omar Bakri Muhammad was barely recognisable after being set free from prison following nearly a decade behind bars

Omar Bakri Muhammad is pictured talking to reporters at Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park, September 8, 1996

‘If he returns to his previous advocacy this will be a real security threat to the UK given his proven ability to poison minds with his radical views.’ Bakri has yet to post anything himself online, but news of his release was celebrated by pro-ISIS channels yesterday.

In pictures released on social media, the grandfather was seen in the arms of his weeping family after being freed last week.

Dressed casually in a pair of tracksuit bottoms, slippers and a bright yellow t-shirt instead of his trademark white robes, the cleric appeared to have aged considerably since he was last seen in public, with his familiar dark beard now entirely white.

Regarded as one of the most controversial extremist preachers of recent times, Bakri famously declared the terrorists who led the September 11, 2001 attacks were ‘magnificent’.

He also proclaimed his desire to see the black flag of Islam flying over 10 Downing Street, stating: ‘Terrorism is a part of Islam.’ For 20 years, Bakri continued to preach hatred in Britain founding al-Muhajiroun which was later banned along with its numerous offshoots, including Islam4UK and Muslims Against Crusades.

Many followers of the group joined the fighting in Syria, and others went on to plan terrorist attacks in Britain, including the killing of Fusilier Lee Rigby and the London Bridge knife attacks.

The 7/7 bombers who struck London in July 2005, killing 52 people, also had links to al-Muhajiroun.

As the government threatened to make arrests for treason, Bakri fled to Lebanon where his mother was living.

Followers of Bakri’s group went on to plan terrorist attacks in Britain, including the killing of Fusilier Lee Rigby and the London Bridge knife attacks. Pictured: Lee Rigby’s killers: Michael Adebolajo (left) and Michael Adebowale (right)

Omar Bakri Muhammad’s group inspired Lee Rigby killers and London Bridge attackers. Pictured: Police and emergency services respond to the London Bridge attack, June 3, 2017

The Syrian-born Islamist, who had been granted asylum here in 1986, was then banned from Britain by the then Home Secretary Charles Clarke.

In July 2006 he attempted to board a boat for British citizens leaving Lebanon, but was turned away when the authorities realised who he was.

In Lebanon, Bakri’s support for al-Qaeda’s franchise in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra, caught the attention of the authorities.

He was detained by Lebanon’s national intelligence agency in May 2014 on the grounds of endangering national security and sentenced to six years for his involvement in forming an organization linked to the jihadist group al-Nusra Front and for attempting to establish militant training camps in Lebanon.

Bakri was reportedly held in an underground cell in Al Rayaniyeh prison for much of his imprisonment.

Omar Bakri Muhammad talks to journalists as he arrives for a meeting at the Finsbury Park mosque in London, September 11 2002

To ease chronic overcrowding, a year-long sentence in a Lebanese prison is reduced to nine months, which means Bakri has served almost twice his initial term.

While he was in jail, two of his seven children left Britain and were killed fighting with ISIS.

Yesterday a pro-ISIS Telegram channel that advocates for the release of clerics held in prison on terrorism-related charges shared a post celebrating Bakri’s release saying: ‘Sheikh Omar Bakri has been released! Alhamdulillah [praise to Allah].’ Another pro-ISIS outlet posted photos of him at home with his family, pointing out a decorative pillow visible in one of the photos is embroidered with the name of his son Bilal, who died fighting with ISIS.

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