Zambia: Arrested terror suspect 'linked to bin Laden'

A British man in custody in Zambia in connection with the July 7 London bombings was once a body guard for al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden, Zambian security officials said today.

The security officials said Haroon Rashid Aswat, 31, said during questioning that he had once been a personal guard for bin Laden, whose terror organisation claimed responsibility for the September 11 attacks on the US.

Aswat was detained in Lusaka after he entered the country from Botswana, the Zambian officials said.

London’s Metropolitan Police headquarters has declined to comment on Aswat’s arrest in Zambia.

The Zambian officials said investigators were particularly interested in talking to Aswat about 20 phone calls allegedly made from his phone to some of the men thought to have set off bombs July 7 on London’s underground and a bus. The bombings killed 56 people, including the four suicide bombers.

Aswat entered Zambia last week from Botswana and intelligence agents trailed him to a safe house in Lusaka where he was arrested, the Zambian officials said.

Prior to his arrival in Zambia, the sources said Aswat had lived in South Africa and frequently travelled to Mozambique and Botswana.

One official said Zambia informed British High Commission officials as soon as they made the arrest, but the British said they believed Aswat had been detained in Pakistan.

He said the British have since requested co-operation and access to Aswat. He said South Africa has also expressed interest in Aswat and want to find out what he was doing in South Africa.

The British Foreign Office has said it was seeking access to a Briton reportedly detained in Zambia but would not identify him.

Aswat reportedly was once an associate of Abu Hamza al-Masri, a radical Muslim preacher who is awaiting trial in Britain on charges of incitement to murder.

Al-Masri also is wanted in the US on charges of trying to establish a terrorist training camp in Bly, Oregon – an enterprise in which Aswat also has been implicated – involvement in hostage-taking in Yemen and funding terror training in Afghanistan.

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