Mon, Mar 20, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Australian terror detainee admits to weapons training

AP , SYDNEY

Australian terror suspect David Hicks has admitted undergoing weapons and guerrilla warfare training with British Islamic extremists, including shoe-bomber Richard Reid, according to a report yesterday.

The British government made the claim in a letter to Hicks' lawyers late last year, respected Melbourne broadsheet the Age said.

Hicks is being held at Guantanamo Bay and is expected to be among the first terror suspects to go on trial before a US military tribunal.

The letter, details of which emerged in a London court on Friday, said Hicks admitted attending a training camp in Kashmir run by militant Islamic group Lashkar-e-Tayyaba in 2000 and "attending the al Farooq system of camps in Afghanistan in around 2001 ... [and] receiving training in weapons and guerrilla warfare," the Age reported.

The al Farooq terror training camps in Afghanistan were funded and supported by Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terror network.

Hicks also admitted, according to the letter, "meeting and training with a number of UK nationals known to be Islamic extremists, including Feroz Abbasi, Martin Mubanga, Richard Reid and Sajid Badat."

Reid is serving a life sentence in the US for trying to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight with a bomb in his shoe on Dec. 22, 2001. He was subdued by fellow passengers on an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami before he could detonate the device.

Badat was sentenced to 13 years in a British prison last year for conspiring with Reid to blow up the flight.

Feroz Abbasi and Martin Mubanga are Britons who were held in Guantanamo Bay on suspicion of having links to al-Qaeda before being released without charge early last year.

Hicks allegedly made the claims when he was interrogated in 2003 by agents from Britain's MI5 spy agency at Guantanamo Bay, the US prison for terror suspects where he has been held since shortly after his arrest while serving with Taliban forces in Afghanistan in 2001.

Hicks' Australian lawyer David McLeod did not immediately return calls yesterday to his cellphone seeking comment and his office phone went unanswered.

Hicks' father previously has said his son may have served with Lashkar-e-Tayyaba but that he went to Afghanistan on a pilgrimage.

A former kangaroo skinner and cowboy in the Australian Outback, Hicks converted to Islam several years ago.

Details of the letter emerged during a London court case at which the British government is appealing a decision to grant Hicks British citizenship.

Hicks' mother was born in Britain and his lawyers hoped gaining British citizenship could lead to his release from Guantanamo Bay. London authorities have successfully lobbied for the release of Britons from the base in Cuba but Australia's government steadfastly has refused to call on Washington to free Hicks.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard yesterday refused to comment on the allegations.

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