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British Muslims says Alleged Bomber Was Influenced by Extremists - 2001-12-28

Leaders of Britain's Muslim community say the London man who allegedly tried to bomb a trans-Atlantic airliner last Saturday, had fallen under the influence of extremist clerics.

The arrest of 28-year-old Richard Reid has raised alarm among British Muslim leaders about the role of Islamic militants in their community.

Mr. Reid is being held on charges of assaulting the crew on an American Airlines jet that he allegedly tried to blow up last Saturday on a flight from Paris to Miami.

Flight crew members say Mr. Reid tried to use matches to ignite his shoes, which were later found to contain plastic explosives. He was overpowered by the crew and fellow passengers. The plane was diverted to Boston, where Mr. Reid is jailed.

Back in London, Muslim leaders say Mr. Reid is one of hundreds of impressionable young men who have fallen under the influence of radical clerics who advocate violence against Western societies.

Zaki Badawi heads London's Muslim College. He said the extremists are distorting the teachings of Islam to persuade young people that terrorism is permitted. "To protect them (young people) from being vulnerable is to give them better Islamic education. So that Islam will not be used by these extremist groups as a motive to push these people into acts of terror," he said.

Meanwhile, U.S. and European police continue to investigate the case of Mr. Reid, amid suspicions he may not have been acting alone.

He is believed to have attended the same south London mosque as Zacarias Moussaoui, a Frenchman of Moroccan descent who has been indicted in the September 11 terrorist attacks against the United States.

Police are looking into reports the two men trained together at a terrorist camp in Afghanistan last year.