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A teenager has revealed how he was recruited by Al-Qaeda-inspired extremists and groomed to carry out suicide attacks in Britain.
In the first insider account of how radicals are preying on vulnerable Muslim youths, the teenager describes being approached by Islamists at a mosque in south London that was used by the failed 21/7 bombers, and indoctrinated at a secret network of squats.
Aged 15, he was the youngest of about 50 recruits who were shown "martyrdom" videos and encouraged to travel to Pakistan to receive terrorist training.
The youth, who is called Adam, told The Sunday Times: "They showed us a jihadist video with the martyrdom flags behind the guy speaking, and the message I got was that I should prepare myself for martyrdom.
And not at all in the Western sense of religious "martyrdom."
"I know a few of the others accepted that they would go [for training in Pakistan]. Some of the young people said, ‘I’m going to go’. That was the ultimate purpose of what these men were doing: what they were doing was training people up to carry out operations in the UK."
Adam, who is now 18, quit the group after a year. The whereabouts of most of the other recruits is unknown.
"It was quite shocking to me," he said. "I started to think, ‘Well, hold on a second, I don’t want to kill anybody. Yeah, I’ve got anger inside me, but this isn’t the right way to deal with this’."
Adam, whose real name is being withheld to protect his safety, is now enrolled in a rehabilitation programme for would-be terrorists.
The scheme is a blueprint for a nationwide "detoxification" programme backed by the Home Office and police chiefs to which 200 people — some as young 13 — have been referred.
When Adam fell under the spell of extremists at the Stockwell mosque in Lambeth in 2005, he was floundering at school, had few friends and was desperately in need of some direction.
He was the eldest of seven children whose Algerian father had died when he was just eight, and his new friends’ talk of Muslim brotherhood seemed to offer the stability he craved.
"A lot of people think that terrorists are recruited in special recruiting grounds, but the truth is that it actually goes on in mosques a lot of the time," said the gangly south London teenager.
"You’ll go to pray and there’ll be small groups of people just away from the main group in the mosque having their own discussion, talking about jihad and all these types of things.
"They started talking to me about what’s going on in Iraq and about how all the people are dying and then they started inviting me to religious talks."
The Stockwell mosque had previously been attended by Muktar Ibrahim and Hussain Osman, two of the four men who failed in their attempt to carry out suicide bombings on London’s transport network on July 21, 2005 — two weeks after the 7/7 attacks which killed 52 commuters.
Adam’s new mentors were Mohammed Hamid, a preacher with links to the 21/7 bombers who called himself Osama Bin London, and Atilla Ahmet, a former aide to Abu Hamza, the hook-handed cleric of Finsbury Park mosque in north London. [...]
Adam said Ahmet and Hamid, who helped to radicalise some of the 21/7 bombers at his east London home, often distorted quotes from the Koran to back their arguments.
"For example, the Koran says killing innocents is one of the biggest sins, but they would say that the innocents were just collateral damage and it was therefore okay," said Adam....