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Khafeel was brainwashed with Gujarat riot tapes
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July 06, 2007 21:01 IST
Last Updated: July 07, 2007 20:26 IST

Khafeel Ahmed, the aeronautical engineer from Bangalore who allegedly drove a flaming SUV into Glasgow airport last week, was brainwashed into carrying out the act by showing video footage of the Gujarat riots, intelligence sources in Bangalore told this correspondent.

Khafeel's contact with fundamentalist organisations came about when he was staying at a Muslim hostel in Davangere as an engineering student in 2001. His friend Imran Shamil said there was a gradual change in his attitude as the years in college passed. He became more reserved and preached about Islam most of the time.

They said he had also joined the Tableeghi Jamaat, the Muslim revivalist organisation that preaches a return to the religion's fundamentals, in 2003. The Jamaat is not too popular among the community thanks to the puritanical brand of Islam it advocates.

A close friend, N Afsar, said Khafeel had tried persuading him and his friends to join the outfit as well. "There was a sudden change in his tone and the way he thought. He and his brother Sabeel became more God-fearing and spoke about jihad."

Afsar also said the brothers advised him not to watch television, turn off the lights early and stop having fun in general.

Khafeel, according to friends, took a turn towards religious orthodoxy in 2000 and although he had no grouse with the United Kingdom directly, he believed in the concept of universal brotherhood which had been drilled into him since then.

They also said during his days both in Davangere and Bangalore, he was shown extensive footage of the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992, the Mumbai riots of 1993, the Gujarat riots of 2002, and also of the Iraq war. The friends believe he may have been asked to carry out the attack in London [Images] as retaliation for the UK's involvement in the Iraq war.

Samiullah, the secretary of the Jamia Hazrat, Tippu Masjid, said the brothers were barred from entering the mosque after they picked up a quarrel with the other members. Khafeel used to enter the mosque without wearing the traditional namaz cap and tried talking the members into joining the Tableeghi Jamaat.

A maulvi, who did not wish to be named for this report, said the day Sabeel was picked up, they had a lot of sympathy for the family. But now, with the news about Khafeel's alleged involvement, all the sympathy has gone.

Khafeel's father, Dr Maqbool Ahmed, worked in Saudi Arabia before coming to Bangalore around 15 years ago.

The Bangalore police say they have ample information about provocative tapes being used by fundamentalist organisations to brainwash young minds.

Who exactly is Khafeel Ahmed? An aeronautical engineer with a PhD from the United Kingdom, he is alleged to be the designer of the car bombs found in a car in central London and in Glasgow. He did his engineering from the UBTD College in Davangere, which is around 250 km from Bangalore. Mild by nature, his friends say he always wanted to design planes and his ultimate dream was to work in the UK.

Dr Siddeshwara, the principal in-charge of the UBTD college, said he remembered Khafeel as a very mild boy who had a lot of leadership qualities, adding that he was shocked at the way things have turned out.

According to sources, Khafeel's parents were in the dark about what their son was up to. Before leaving Bangalore for the UK on May 5, 2007, he reportedly told them that he was starting work on a confidential project and hence could not be reached both on telephone or e-mail. He also assured them that nothing would happen to him and there was nothing to worry.

During the last conversation he had with his mother, Dr Zakia Ahmed, he said his work would be complete in a month after which he would return to their home in Banashankari area, Bangalore.

During Dr Zakia Ahmed's interaction with the media on Wednesday after her other son Dr Sabeel Ahmed was arrested in Liverpool, she had made no mention about her elder son Khafeel.

The family has stayed away from the media stating they had been advised to do so by their lawyers. Khafeel's sister said she was not sure the person who is in hospital in Glasgow with burn injuries is her brother at all.

A day after it came to light that Khafeel may be the key person in the Glasgow attack, the crime branch, Intelligence Bureau and RAW officials spent most of their time at the homes of the Ahmeds and Mohammed Haneef.

Bangalore Police Commissioner Achuth Rao, who is the sole person authorised to speak on the issue, said it was too early to comment as investigations were still on.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime), Ravikanthe Gowda, said they were questioning the members of the family to find out more about the links. He however added that the investigations are at a very preliminary stage.

The police who arrived at Khafeel's house on Friday morning spent almost three hours questioning family members. Later, the advocate for the family walked in and sought to take the family to some other location. The police objected, stating that they could not leave until the investigation was complete. However, the lawyer assured them that he would bring the family back by the evening, following which Khafeel's mother and sister left the place along with their lawyer.

Commissioner Achuth Rao revealed that in the past 18 months, 13 people of Karnataka origin have been arrested for alleged terrorist activities. First was the IISc attack, in which eight people were arrested. A little later, three persons -- Fahad, Ali and Imran Bilal -- were arrested for trying to spread terror in the state. And now three young men from the state are in custody abroad for alleged terror links.

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