Jamaica Muslim leader worries about radical cleric

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — The head of Jamaica’s Muslim community expressed alarm Wednesday over the pending return of a radical cleric who served time in a British prison for urging the killing of Americans, Christians, Hindus and Jews.

Sheik Abudllah el-Faisal, who was born in Jamaica, was arrested in Kenya on New Year’s Eve by anti-terrorism police as he was leaving a mosque in a coastal town. Officials say he will be deported to Jamaica because of his history of extremist activities.

“I am extremely concerned about his return. We have no idea with whom he has been associating with for more than a year,” said Mustafa Muhammad from Kingston, where he is organizing an emergency meeting of Jamaican Muslims to discuss el-Faisal.

There is no immediate date for the deportation. El-Faisal is stuck in the East African nation because other nations, including South Africa, Tanzania and Britain, are refusing to allow him to transit through their countries.

Muhammad, who leads Jamaica’s Islamic council that has 4,600 members and 10 mosques, said the Caribbean island’s Muslims are worried about el-Faisal’s apparently secretive travels through Africa.

Kenyan officials say el-Faisal traveled from Nigeria through Angola, Malawi, Swaziland, Mozambique and Tanzania by road before entering Kenya. They say el-Faisal likely was trying to avoid detection because he is on an international watch list of terrorism suspects.

Muhammad said that when el-Faisal was deported to Jamaica in 2007 after a prison term in Britain, he told the extremist cleric that his views were unacceptable and under no circumstances would council authorities allow him to preach in mosques under its umbrella.

Muhammad said El-Faisal showed “no remorse” for his calls for violent jihad after serving four years for incitement to murder and stirring racial hatred.

“He said he didn’t think he had ever done anything wrong,” Muhammad said.

He said el-Faisal lived in the northern Jamaica coast city of Montego Bay for a brief time before departing for Africa more than a year ago.

Britain has said el-Faisal’s teachings heavily influenced one of the bombers who carried out the 2005 transport network bombings in London that killed 52 people. Internet postings purportedly written by a Nigerian charged with trying to bomb a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day refer to el-Faisal as a cleric he had listened to.

El-Faisal preached at London’s Brixton mosque in the 1990s before being ejected by mosque authorities because of his support for violent jihad. The mosque was attended at different times by Richard Reid, who is serving a life sentence in a U.S. prison after a failed 2001 attempt to blow up an airplane, and convicted Sept. 11 plotter Zacarias Moussaoui.

Muhammad said he will encourage Jamaica’s Muslims to “pay close attention to anything that raises alarms” when el-Faisal returns.

“This is a poor country, where security is not as rigid as elsewhere. We are very concerned of the possibility of people infiltrating our community,” he said.

Glenmore Hinds, Jamaica’s assistant police chief, said Monday that el-Faisal has committed no crime in Jamaica, but will be monitored when he returns because of his history of calling for violence. Hinds said Jamaica cannot block his return.