Extremist group 'has HK members'

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 January, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 January, 2002, 12:00am

An extremist religious group banned by Pakistan in a crackdown on terrorism earlier this month claims it has about 100 members in Hong Kong.

A founding leader of the Islamic group, the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, made a speech in the Kowloon Mosque while visiting to the SAR in 1994. Al-Qaeda terrorist Ramzi Yousef, who set off a bomb in the basement of the World Trade Centre in New York in 1993 and plotted unsuccessfully to blow up US aircraft in 1995, is alleged to be a member of the group.

Indian military sources say the group sent members to Afghanistan to fight alongside Taleban and al-Qaeda troops against the US-backed Northern Alliance.

A spokesman for the group, Mujiboor Rahman, told the Sunday Morning Post from Lahore in Pakistan that it had about 100 members in Hong Kong.

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf banned Sipah-e-Sahaba, or the Guardians of the Friends of the Prophet, on January 12 along with other extremist groups.

Mr Rahman said the group's SAR members had sent donations but the money had 'dried up' after the clampdown following the September 11 attacks.

He and the group's information secretary, Manzoor Shakir, directed the Sunday Morning Post to Muhammad Tayaib Qasmi, former imam of the Kowloon Mosque, for further information. However, Mr Qasmi denied involvement with the group. Mr Qasmi is involved in the operation of three Islamic religious schools - known as madrassas.

He confirmed he had invited the group's founder, Maulana Zia-ur-Rehman Farooqi, to Hong Kong in 1994 to give a speech at the mosque.

Farooqi was killed in a bomb explosion at a Lahore court in 1997. The decision to allow him to speak at the Kowloon Mosque sparked complaints. A senior member of the Muslim community wrote to the Trustees of the Islamic Community Fund complaining about the mosque being used to 'promote and recruit members for the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan'. A copy of the letter was sent to the Secretary for Security.

Mr Qasmi said he had asked Farooqi not to discuss the conflict between the Sunni group and Shi'ites during his speech. 'He spoke only for the Prophet Mohammed. He did not speak for Sipah-e-Sahaba,' he said.

The present imam of the Kowloon Mosque, Mufti Muhammad Arshad, said he had heard about Farooqi's speech but was unaware of details as he had only arrived in Hong Kong last year. He said the group did not have any presence within the mosque.

Claims of the group's SAR links come as the Government prepares to introduce an anti-terrorist law. An international taskforce will meet this week to discuss ways of cracking down on the financing of terrorism.

The Financial Action Taskforce on Money Laundering - which has 29 member nations - will begin a three-day meeting on Wednesday. It is currently headed by the SAR's Commissioner for Narcotics, Clarie Lo Ku Ka-lee.

A Security Bureau spokeswoman would not comment on Sipah-e-Sahaba.



Threat to SAR - Page 3