Bin Laden Sought Refuge in Britain...

In an amazing story, it has been reported that bin Laden sought asylum in Britain as he was planning the attack on our soil:

He claims to hate everything the West stands for. But on Wednesday it emerged that Osama bin Laden sought asylum in Britain even as he was planning the September 11 attacks on the US.

The Al Qaeda leader wanted to abandon his base in Sudan at the end of 1995 and asked some of his followers in London to sound out whether he would be able to move to Britain.

Michael Howard, who was then Home Secretary, recalls how his aides told him of the asylum request from the Saudi-born militant who the world knew little of ten years ago.

A number of his brothers and other relatives, all members of the wealthy bin Laden construction empire, owned properties in London by the mid-1990s.

The teenage bin Laden had reportedly toured Europe with his family and became an Arsenal fan, though there is no record of his ever having been to a match at Highbury.

The astonishing approach to the British authorities happened only months after bin Laden had secretly organised a terror summit in Manila in January 1995 to begin planning how hijackers would turn passenger planes into flying bombs. He called it the "Bojinka plot", which is Arabic slang for an explosion.

By this time bin Laden had also transferred some of his considerable personal fortune to London for his followers to establish terror cells here and across Europe.

His name rarely appeared in the British media even though by late 1995 his network had already bombed a number of US Army bases abroad and plotted assassination attempts against Pope John Paul II and President Clinton. Howard said yesterday: "In truth, I knew little about him, but we picked up information that bin Laden was very interested in coming to Britain". It was apparently a serious request.

"He already had people operating here, and who knows how history could have been rewritten if he had turned up here?"

Bin Laden never got a chance to make a formal application as Home Office officials investigated him and Mr Howard issued an immediate banning order under Britain's immigration laws.