Radical cleric stuck in Kenya after visa denials

AP News
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Posted: Jan 05, 2010 12:10 PM

A Jamaican-born radical Muslim cleric who once led a London mosque attended by convicted terrorists is stuck in Kenya despite attempts to deport him because other nations are refusing to allow him to transit through their countries, officials said Tuesday.

Sheik Abdullah el-Faisal is being expelled from Kenya because of his history of being involved in terrorist activities, Kenya's immigration minister said. Britain has said that el-Faisal's teachings heavily influenced one of the bombers who carried out the 2005 transport network bombings in London that killed 52 people.

El-Faisal _ who has called for Americans, Hindus and Jews to be killed _ traveled from Nigeria and through Angola, Malawi, Swaziland, Mozambique, and Tanzania by road before coming to Kenya, said a Kenyan official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak on the issue.

The official said it is likely el-Faisal was trying to avoid detection because he is on a watch list of terror suspects.

South Africa and the U.K. have declined to grant him transit visas, the official said. The visas would allow el-Faisal to connect to flights to Jamaica, which has said it would accept him but would keep a close eye on him. Tanzania also declined to grant him a visa _ despite the fact he entered Kenya from Tanzania.

El-Faisal served four years in Britain for inciting murder and stirring racial hatred by urging followers to kill Americans, Hindus and Jews.

Internet postings purportedly written by a Nigerian man now charged with trying to bomb a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day referred to el-Faisal as a cleric he had listened to.

The posting was made in March 2005 under the name "farouk1986." The suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was born that year. Officials haven't verified that the postings were written by Abdulmutallab, but details from the posts match his personal history.

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.

He later toured widely in Britain preaching and selling audio tapes of his sermons. The British government has said he was a key influence on July 7 bomber Jermaine Lindsay.

El-Faisal was arrested in Kenya on New Year's Eve by anti-terror police as he was leaving a mosque in the coastal town of Mombasa. Al-Amin Kimathi, an official of the Muslim human rights forum, said that police told el-Faisal at the time of his arrest that he had violated his visa terms by preaching in mosques.

In order for el-Faisal to fly to Jamaica he would need a transit visa to allow him to connect to flights in the U.S., Europe or Canada, said Kennedy Buhere, a spokesman for the Ministry of Immigration.

Immigration Minister Otieno Kajwang said he had signed el-Faisal's deportation papers on Saturday. Kajwang told The Associated Press he was deporting el-Faisal because he has a history of being involved in terrorist activities.

Kajwang said when el-Faisal arrived in the country on Dec. 24, he was not stopped at immigration offices based in Lunga-Lunga, a Kenya border point with Tanzania. Immigration officials were not able to do a background check because their computers were not connected to a database. He said the data base was shut down to install new software.

"He must have known that our machines were down," Kajwang said.

Kimathi said that el-Faisal had come into the country on the invitation of the Muslim youths who wanted him to give lectures. Kenya has a minority Muslim population, mostly on the country's Indian Ocean coast.

Kimathi said he had talked with officials at Kenya's Immigration Ministry who confirmed that el-Faisal had been denied entry to Tanzania by road late Monday and was brought back to the capital city, Nairobi.

Kimathi said he instructed a lawyer to go to court Wednesday and get orders to stop the deportation because el-Faisal's constitutional rights have been violated.

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Associated Press Writers Jill Lawless in London and Jon Gambrell in Nigeria contributed to this report.