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Five guns at his head... The Talibrum was seized, and back in Britain
[August 14, 2006]

Five guns at his head... The Talibrum was seized, and back in Britain


(The Mail on Sunday Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) RASHID RAUF was asleep in the back room of a small, unremarkable house in a quiet suburb of Rawalpindi when he was shaken violently awake.

Five members of Pakistan's security services, the ISI, pointed their handguns in his face, but he offered no resistance, only mumbled protests.

Then they took him away, leaving as stealthily as they arrived. They were followed by a group of military intelligence agents who had surrounded the house, unseen by neighbours.

The arrest in the early hours on August 4 of Rashid Rauf, a 25-year-old from Birmingham - dubbed Mr Talibrum - set in motion a chain of events that led to the arrests of 24 terror suspects in Britain and the biggest aviation security operation since September 11.



Rauf - who fled to Pakistan four years ago after his uncle's murder for which he is said to be wanted for questioning - had been holed up in the safe house, owned by a former Afghan fighter, for several months.

His activities were closely monitored by the ISI, under the direction of MI6.


Rauf is alleged to have communicated by satellite phone with some of the suspects arrested last week. He was held in Rawalpindi but not interrogated immediately.

Despite painstaking efforts to keep his arrest secret, news leaked out to at least one of his associates. A call was intercepted, however, by security services in Karachi and the operation to round up the alleged plotters, who themselves had been under surveillance for many months, was brought quickly forward Among those seized were Rauf's brothers Tayib, 22, and Maroof, 19, in Birmingham.

According to reports, the brothers, particularly Rashid, are now considered key figures in the suspected plot to destroy US-bound aircraft.

Security sources believe that Rashid Rauf took orders in person from Matiur Rehman, an Al Qaeda commander linked to a string of atrocities.

The Pakistan authorities have sought Rehman in connection with two failed attempts on the life of the Pakistani President, General Pervez Musharraf, in 2003, and attacks in Karachi against Westerners.

The security sources say they now believe Rauf met Rehman to discuss the terror plot, and may even have travelled into Afghanistan together.

Earlier this year they said they believed Rehman - known to be a vital link between Al Qaeda chiefs and militant Islamists in tribal areas - was in the early stages of planning a major attack on Britain and the US and offered a GBP90,000 reward for his capture.

He is believed to have helped train thousands of fellow Pakistani militants at Al Qaeda camps in the late Nineties, with militants from Africa and the Arab world.

It has been suggested by officials in Pakistan and America that Rashid Rauf may have directed the bomb plot from Pakistan, sending at least one message urging the plotters to push ahead more quickly.

He appeared before a judge four days ago in Rawalpindi and was remanded into custody for further questioning.

It was claimed yesterday in the respected Dawn newspaper in Pakistan that his brother, Tayib Rauf, was also arrested over the July 7 suicide attacks in London but released without charge.

However this was quickly discounted by both Scotland Yard and Islamabad .

Yesterday it emerged that the brothers' father Abdul Rauf, 52, founded a charity providing care to the needy in Pakistan six years ago.

In the past terror suspects have posed as relief workers to travel to Al Qaeda training camps in Pakistan, although there is nothing to suggest the charity, Crescent Relief, has attracted the attention of the security services.

It is said to undertake projects in Pakistan including sponsoring orphans and helping to rebuild after the 2005 earthquake.

Collecting from a local mosque, the charity says it aims to build 1,000 houses for those left homeless after the Kashmir earthquake. According to Charity Commission data the charity had a 2003 turnover of GBP89,202, with a surplus of GBP11,929.

Although Mr Rauf resigned his directorship some years ago, and lives in Birmingham, he regularly visits the charity's premises in a small brick unit in a corner of the Chadwell Heath Industrial Park in Essex.

One large sticker in the office bears the slogan: 'Freedom fighters not terrorists', together with the address of the Kashmir Human Rights Forum.

Business cards litter the desk and one, apparently advertising a book, read: 'Dr Bin Laden, a spy thriller.' Mr Rauf was said by neighbours on the industrial estate to have owned the unit, and the adjacent car repair workshop, for several years.

One worker said men in traditional Islamic dress often visited the office but did not discuss their charitable work.

The man, a Muslim, said: 'They get charity things together and send it abroad. The last thing they did was for the Pakistan earthquake.

'You get quite a few people who come here and they're really moody. If I was doing charity work, I would say to neighbours do you want to help, but they never really speak to us about it.' A friend of the Rauf family described Rashid as an 'outcast' but insisted Tayib was not linked to terrorism.

The woman, who did not want to be named, said: 'Tayib is just not that sort of person.'

She claimed Tayib works '24/7' for Mr Rauf's business in Birmingham, Oriental Bakeries, which delivers cakes and confectionery to shops, schools and hospitals.

The woman said Mr Rauf's bakery had been searched by police after Tayib's arrest but had now reopened.

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