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Brothers with puritan past

Bangalore, July 5: Kafeel and Sabeel Ahmed, the brothers from Bangalore caught in the UK terror plot, had been involved in a scrap at a mosque opposite their home after they tried to convert worshippers to “pure” Islam.

“We told them ‘we will break your hands and legs if you interfere with our way of following religion’,” said Samiullah, secretary of the Jamia Hazrat Tipu Trust, which houses the small mosque. “After this warning they became more sensible.” The incident happened four or five years ago, before they moved to Britain.

Kafeel is suspected to be one of the suicide bombers who drove a burning jeep to Glasgow airport on Saturday and is now battling for life with 90 per cent burns. Sabeel, a doctor, was arrested from Liverpool on Saturday.

The brothers — drawn like many educated youths to Tabliqui Jamat, a group that preaches “pure” Islam, shorn of rituals — had been telling people to stop visiting dargahs and touching elders’ feet.

When the interference got “too much” — they were telling worshippers to shun the “traditional Sunni way of practising religion”, Samiullah said — they were told off. Such a tussle between puritans and traditionalists is not uncommon at mosques.

A friend of Sabeel’s, Mohammed Haneef, has had his detention extended in Brisbane where he is being questioned by local police and a British counter-terrorism officer. Haneef, a doctor from Bangalore, will be held till Monday.

At the Ahmed home, where mother Dr Zakia had loudly protested Sabeel’s innocence yesterday while drawing a veil over Kafeel, no one was available today. The parents — father Maqbool is also a doctor — shut themselves in, refusing to open the door or take calls.

Neighbours said the family had always been insular. “They never mingled with neighbours nor socialised,” said Khalil, who claimed to be a long-time acquaintance.

Suresh Kumar, a neighbour of eight years, said he had hardly ever seen the three Ahmed children — Sadia, the youngest, is said to be a doctor. “They are very quiet. I do not remember any get-togethers or parties at their house. We only heard Sabeel’s Bullet motorcycle at night and often mistook it for a beat policeman’s.”

Sabeel, who was working at a Liverpool area hospital, had come to India three months ago for a short holiday, some acquaintances said.

Kafeel is thought to be an engineer who did his PhD from a university in Cambridge and not a doctor as his mother claimed yesterday.

A mutton shop owner, Aslam Pasha, who described himself as a friend, confirmed the brothers were puritans. “They used to advise us not to smoke, drink tea or coffee. They tried to introduce such things in the mosque also and there was a fight over it.” He described them as “decent”.

 

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