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British Leaders Denounce Terror Threat Made by Muslim Man - 2002-01-07

British authorities have denounced a threat by a Muslim man who says he has set up a network of volunteers who could carry out terrorist attacks in Britain.

A British Muslim man says he has recruited more than 200 British volunteers who fought for the Taleban in Afghanistan.

Hassan Butt, 22, claims that many of his recruits are now in Pakistan, preparing to return to Britain to launch attacks on government leaders and military installations.

Mr. Butt, interviewed on British radio from Lahore, Pakistan, said he has no plans to return to Britain, though he claims he sneaked into the country for three weeks after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

His comments have drawn sharp condemnation from British politicians and Muslim leaders.

Oliver Lewtin, a leader in parliament of the opposition Conservative Party, told British radio the threats pose a security problem for police. "I think this is an individual who is very seriously in breach of the law," Mr. Lewtin said. "I would be inclined to describe the remarks he made as traitorous. I do not think there is any deficiency in our law here. It is very, very clear that what he was advocating, and what people if they were to do it would be doing, would be wholly illegal. The problem is not that, it is to catch them."

Prominent British Muslim Ghayasuddin Siddiqui says Mr. Butt is part of "the lunatic fringe" of the British-Muslim community. He says young men who invoke Islam to justify terrorism need to mend their ways and reorder their priorities.

The Butt interview is the latest in a string of controversies surrounding the role of young British Muslims in suspected terrorist activities.

The British foreign office is investigating Red Cross reports that three British citizens are prisoners of anti-Taleban forces in northern Afghanistan.

In the United States, criminal charges have been filed against a British Muslim man, Richard Reid, accused of trying to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight with explosives packed in his shoes.