Omar Bakri Muhammad – once one of Britain’s most outspoken “radical preachers” – is reported to be on the run in Lebanon after authorities raided his house as part of a security plan for the northern city of Tripoli.
The Lebanese army and security forces have deployed heavily around the city and conducted a series of raids in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
Muhammad is among around 200 individuals wanted by the authorities in Tripoli for their alleged role in the ongoing clashes in the city, as well as car bombs and the targeting of civilians and army members.
Security forces have detained 21 suspects thus far.
In recent years there have been deadly clashes between the Sunni majority and minority Alawite community in Tripoli. The two communities are deeply divided over the war in neighbouring Syria, where they back different sides.
Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad is an Alawite and is backed by minorities in the country as well as many sunnis. On the other hand, the country’s majority sunni community has also been at the forefront of the uprising against the state.
Omar Bakri Muhammad is alleged to be close to Al-Qaeda, although he denies this. Born in Syria, Muhammad lived in Britain for many years, where he was a leading member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, from which he later split to form Al Muhajiroun.
Upon arriving to Lebanon in 2005 he was informed by the British government that he could not return.
In November 2010 it was reported that Bakri was among 54 people sentenced by a military court to life in prison with hard labour after being accused of acts of terrorism.
After the decision Bakri told reporters, he would “not spend one day in prison”, and said, “I will not hand myself in to any court. I do not believe in the law in Britain as in Lebanon.”
Responding to these developments arrest, his spokesman in Britain Anjem Choudary said: “We understand that communication with Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad is currently not possible as the authorities have also taken his phone but alhamdulillah (praise be to Allah) the Sheikh himself is currently not in their custody as he was not at home when the raid took place.
“In this time of test and trial we ask all Muslims to make dua for all the Muslims in the world and in particular those who are being targeted by the brutal Lebanese regime, who on the one hand appease the Israelis and never lift a finger to liberate the Muslim land of Palestine but have no qualms in attacking Muslims.
“Those who allow the Shia Hizbollah, for whom such violations of honour are common practise, to go to Syria and commit crimes, but when Sunni Muslims want to help their brethren and defend them they are instead arrested and targeted.
“There is no doubt that in the absence of Islam as a way of life we will continue to suffer the harsh reality of man made laws in all its forms. May Allah (SWT) help us to defend the life, honour and property of all Muslims, to liberate all Muslim land from occupation and help us bring the Khilafah system of governance sooner rather than later.”