LONDON – A young Londoner who last month called Usama bin Laden "an inspiration" has been killed in Afghanistan along with four other British recruits that he led into the country from Pakistan.
Abdul Salim, 24, a civil engineer from East London, was reported to have died in the battle for Mazar-e-Sharif.
His parents and younger brother and sister, who live in Whitechapel, in east London, were told of his death yesterday by al-Muhajiroun, the British-based group whose leader, Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, has claimed responsibility for recruiting scores of young British Muslims to fight with bin Laden.
Mr. Salim, who is said to have led the small party of British recruits into Mazar-e-Sharif three weeks ago, claimed to have been schooled in sabotage techniques and bomb-making at Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan last year and then fought with them for four months.
A spokesman for the al-Muhajiroun group in Islamabad named two of the other victims as Zulfikar Ahmed, 28, from Leicester, and Abu Waheed 26, from Crawley, West Sussex. Hassan Butt, the spokesman, said: "They laid down their lives for Islam."
He added that the families of the other two men in Britain had asked that their names be withheld for fear of reprisals.
There are doubts, however, as to the victims' true identities. Muslim clerics in Whitechapel said they didn't know anyone of that name who had left the area. Last night Mr Butt said it was an alias, as Salim's parents and his younger brother and sister had already faced racial attacks, but refused to reveal any more details about the family or the assaults on them.
Abdul Salim is said to have left London for Pakistan soon after September 11. He travelled to Lahore last month where he posed for a photograph with his face covered and told of his unstinting admiration for bin Laden.
"I think bin Laden is an inspiration to Muslims," he said. "He is a man of a high-class family who is sleeping in a cave and giving all his worldly goods to Islam. I have not seen anything he says that contradicts Islam."
His main ambition in going to Afghanistan he said, was to meet bin Laden who is "an inspiration to all British Muslims". Salim also described his chequered military history with Al Qaeda during his previous stint in Afghanistan.
"When I was on the front line, there were Arabs, Pakistanis, Indonesians and Uzbeks. There was danger. The Northern Alliance are fine marksmen and one once shot me out of a tree."
The Foreign Office said it could not confirm the identities or the number of Britons believed killed. At mosques in Leicester and Crawley yesterday nobody appeared to recognise the names Zulfikar Ahmed and Abu Waheed.
Last month Yasir Khan, 24, from Crawley in Sussex, was killed in a U.S. airstrike on a mosque in Kabul.
Mr Khan's family insisted that their son had gone to Afghanistan as an aid worker.
There are believed to have been at least ten young British Muslims killed since the bombing began on October 7.
To add to the confusion yesterday Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, said that these latest victims were not part of his organization. It is not known whether the other British recruit, who was photographed with Abdul Salim and only identified himself as Abdullah, was among the five killed.
Abdullah, a 25-year-old telephone engineer from Ilford, said that he had been recruited by a fellow Briton who had been in a bin Laden training camp.