‘Recruiter’ of UK jihadis: I regret opening the way to Isis

The “godfather” of the British jihadi movement, who recruited dozens of young men to fight in foreign wars, has said he now regrets opening the way for people to join terror groups such as Islamic State and al-Qaida.

Abu Muntasir, 55, who lives in Suffolk, was one of the first influential propagandists in the UK for a radical Islamist message. Active in the 1980s and 1990s, he helped to radicalise “thousands” of young Muslims, encouraging many of them to travel to fight in wars in Afghanistan, Kashmir, Burma, Bosnia and Chechnya.

Among the first to invite speakers to the UK from abroad who preached violence and hatred to disaffected Muslims, he distributed speeches from hate preachers Ali al-Timimi, now serving a life sentence in the US for inciting terrorism, and the late Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in a controversial CIA drone attack in Yemen that also left his children dead.

Abu Muntasir in Deeyah Khan’s television documentary: “If people want to call me a coward, fine – I’m a coward.” Photograph: ITV
Abu Muntasir in Deeyah Khan’s television documentary: “If people want to call me a coward, fine – I’m a coward.” Photograph: ITV

Speaking to the Observer, Alyas Karmani said that to tackle the numbers of young people leaving the UK for Syria, Iraq and Libya, it was important that the debate should change to understanding the human elements at play. “It’s not about ideals – 90% of them never subscribe to the ideals – it’s other factors that are a draw. This is the new rock and roll; jihad is sexy. The kid who was not very good-looking now looks good holding a gun. He can get a bride now, he’s powerful. The Isis gun is as much a penis extension as the stockbroker with his Ferrari.