‘Shoe bomber’ fears as extremists eye London street gangs: report

January 11th, 2009 - 5:57 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Jan 11 (IANS) Islamic extremists are targeting notorious teenage criminal gangs in London for recruitment, a newspaper reported Sunday quoting British security officials. Police have identified three gangs that are being targeted - Poverty Driven Children, the Muslim Boys and Money Crew, members of the Special Branch, which deals with national security issues, told the Observer newspaper.

The paper said there are fears that someone could follow the path of Richard Reid, the ’shoe bomber’ and former gang member who tried to blow up a plane in 2001 and is now serving a life sentence in the US.

Potential recruits were often picked up in prisons for young offenders - Reid was a member of a London street gang and converted to Islam after being sent to prison for petty crimes.

“Conditions ‘inside’ provide a captive audience. Once outside, the gang members return to their old stomping grounds and their old habits, but take the trappings of their new religion with them,” a senior officer was quoted as saying.

“They might describe themselves as Muslims, but they are anything but. They claim to despise western excesses, but still deal in drugs and indulge in violence,” he said.

“The concern is that the youngsters around these gangs are impressionable and violent and would therefore be the perfect recruits for terrorists,” he added.

Two years ago, jailed gang members of the Muslim Boys were accused in an internal memo at the high-security Belmarsh prison of forcing fellow prisoners to convert to Islam.

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