London: Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, head of the banned Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) in Pakistan, toured Britain in the 1990s stirring up Muslim youths to become jihadis years before 9/11, a BBC investigation has found.
Saeed, who has a $10 million bounty on his head for allegedly masterminding the 2008 terror attack in Mumbai, thrilled audiences in packed mosques in cities around Britain by calling for a return to the days when Muslims waged jihad and infidels paid them protection money.
Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), has denied involvement in the Mumbai carnage.
A report in Pakistan's Dawn newspaper quoted the BBC as saying that the revelation had come amidst concerns for the British government and intelligence agencies about the large number of Muslims going abroad to fight "holy wars".
The investigation, which was the basis of a 40-minute BBC Radio 4 documentary, was broadcast on Tuesday night. It revealed that the roots of violent religious struggle by British Muslims were laid in the mid-1990s, much earlier than previously thought.
The tour of Britain was chronicled in Mujalla Al Dawah, a monthly magazine published by Saeed's organization, Markaz Dawa Wal Irshad.
According to the articles uncovered during the BBC investigation, Hafiz Saeed arrived in Britain on August 9, 1995 and set about lecturing the youth about jihad. There was silence in Birmingham as he urged his audience to "rise up for jihad" and vilified Hindus.
That address "in real terms laid the foundation of ... jihad in the UK", according to the articles.
In Huddersfield, Saeed said: "In order to defeat infidels, it is our duty to develop all forms of arms and ammunition, including nuclear bomb. That is God's command. We (LeT) have declared jihad and killing as first condition of our belief."
In Leicester on August 26, Saeed spoke at a conference attended by 4,000 people. His address "infused a new spirit in the youth. Hundreds of young men expressed intention to get jihad training".
Summing up the British tour, the author wrote: "A large number of young people want to get jihad training. A group of around 50 college and varsity students has so far finalised its programme... The time is not far off when Muslims will wake up."
Manwar Ali, a computer science graduate from London who became a jihadist but has now renounced violence, told the BBC he persuaded Saeed to visit Britain to rally support for jihad and raise funds.
"Whenever Saeed would come to Green Lane (Birmingham) or Rochdale, Skipton, Rotherham, Birmingham and Leicester, thousands of people would turn up," Ali told BBC.
Each trip raised £150,000 or more. Women removed their gold bangles and earrings in response to his call. Hundreds of Britons went to battlefields in the Philippines, Jammu and Kashmir as well as Bosnia, with some losing their lives.
The LeT was banned by Pakistan in 2002 but shortly before that Hafiz Saeed resigned and formed JuD, which is currently on a watch list but officially not banned. Saeed was confined to his home in Pakistan for several months last year but has been freed since.