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Police are targeting ‘khat’ houses in Woolwich amid fears they are recruiting grounds for Islamic extremists.
Khat is a leafy stimulant grown in East Africa that delivers an amphetamine-like high for as long as it is chewed.
One of the two Woolwich suspects, Michael Adebolajo, used it, according to his associates. The substance is legal in Britain but banned in many other countries, including the US, where it is regarded as a narcotic ranked alongside heroin and cocaine.
Somali community worker Abukar Awale told The Mail on Sunday that police officers had visited several mafrish – the name given to houses devoted to khat chewing – since the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby.
‘I’ve heard they were asking questions about the people frequenting them,’ he said. ‘Some time before the murder, a few of them were closed down by police.’
In one mafrish – a basement room in a house close to Woolwich mosque – Mr Awale saw extremist preacher Abdul Qadir Mumin, who has been linked to Adebolajo, trying to recruit ‘disaffected’ youths.
He said: ‘There were about 20 young men lying around on mattresses, chewing khat, and Mumin was preaching to them, saying that Britain had failed them but that a better life beckoned. He left each of them his card and urged them to get in touch.
‘I am aware of cases in which youths have been recruited in this way. One young man from Woolwich rang his father, who lives in Cardiff, to say that he was on the Somali border. His father immediately called the police, who in turn contacted the Kenyan authorities who arrested his son and deported him, like Adebolajo.
‘Back in Britain he told police that he wasn’t recruited in a mosque – which had been their assumption – but in a mafrish. I am not sure if Adebolajo was recruited in this way but it wouldn’t surprise me.’
In 2010, Adebolajo left South London to try to join the Somali terror group Al-Shabaab, of which Mumin is a senior member.
Complaining that he was coming under intense scrutiny from the security services, Mumin left for the war-torn country around the same time.
Soon after his arrival in Somalia, he burnt his British passport in front of hundreds of supporters while declaring his lifelong support for jihad and vowing never to return to the UK.
– Daily Mail