London (CNSNews.com) - Secret tapes indicating that one of Britain's leading radical Muslim clerics might have had prior knowledge of the bombing of the USS Cole have been released to reporters and trackers of radical Islamic groups in the United States and Britain.
The tapes, which contain footage filmed inside London's Finsbury Park Mosque, include violent rhetoric about the killing and enslavement of Jews and Christians and discussions about the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.
Several of the tapes featured radical cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, who is wanted in Yemen on terrorism charges.
In one tape, al-Masri praises the bombings of the U.S. embassies, in which 224 people died.
"If Muslims are having a war against this people ... it's legitimate," he said.
On a tape dated Aug. 10, 1998, al-Masri mentions attacks on Western ships in Muslim countries.
"Even if it is a ship, a ship that has lost its way, then they will take it as booty," he said. "If a Muslim cannot capture his enemy, then it is acceptable to kill them."
The USS Cole bombing killed 17 sailors in Yemen in October 2000
Shortly after the attack, al-Masri made a claim of responsibility for the Islamic Army of Aden, a Yemeni group linked to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda.
UK: terror base?
The videotapes were first obtained by freelance journalist Jeremy Reynalds. Talking via phone from New Mexico, Reynalds explained that he and several other journalists have been tracking the use of the world wide web by radical Islamic groups.
Earlier this year, he received an email from a source who asked if Reynalds would be interested in terror websites being hosted by U.S. web providers.
His investigation led to the discovery of the tapes, which were obtained by a British source who won the trust of otherwise insular radical U.K. Muslims.
Reynalds said that other than in the Seattle Times and in Britain's Sunday Times, the tapes have not been widely reported on in the mainstream media.
"I really would have thought that somebody would have picked this story up and run with it," he said.
Reynalds' source said that he contacted British officials with the tapes but that they did not follow up on his information.
"Now the whole world can see that the United Kingdom is a major terrorist training base and support center for the al Qaeda," the source told Reynalds for an article published on www.assistnews.net.
The Seattle Times has run several articles on the tapes because of links between Hamza and terror suspect James Ujaama, who is being held in the city on terror and conspiracy charges.
Ujaama, who will be tried next June, is quoted on one of the tapes as saying: "There are many Muslims who have forgotten that the Jews and Christians are our enemies."
The tapes show Ujaama seated next to al-Masri at a meeting at the Finsbury Park Mosque. On one of the tapes, Ujaama admits he was in Afghanistan but denies he took part in terror training.
"Sheikh Osama bin Laden was framed and forced in isolation, having to leave his own land, his family, and then used as a scapegoat to arrest many Muslims," Ujaama said.
U.S. prosecutors have said al-Masri sent Ujaama to Afghanistan just days before the Sept. 11 attacks to meet with Taliban officials.
Al-Masri has numerous suspected ties to terror attackers and organizations. Richard Reid, the "shoe bomber" who attempted to blow up a flight from Paris to Miami, was part of al-Masri's congregation, as was Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called "20th hijacker" who now faces trial in the United States.
On the one-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, al-Masri and another noted British radical, Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, held a "commemoration" event at the north London mosque.
At the event, al-Masri said the United States and Britain could face suicide bombings if the allies invade Iraq.
"If you were on the agenda you would see suicide bombings everywhere, just like in Israel. So it's simple. Stay away and preserve your people," he said.
A spokesman for Britain's Home Office said he couldn't comment on whether or not al-Masri or his organization, Supporters of Shari'a, are the subjects of a terror investigation.
"Police and security services are fully aware of this individual and his organization, and their activities are closely monitored," the spokesman said.
Britain has no extradition treaty with Yemen, the spokesman said, but extradition requests from one country to the other are handled on a "case-by-case basis."
Several emails to al-Masri and Supporters of Shari'a were not returned this week and two London phone numbers for the group were disconnected.
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