Was Moazzam Begg detained as a part of Britain’s strategy to find the most recent beheading victim Alan Henning, as well as other hostages of the Islamic State and their would-be murderer Jihadi John?
It was always questionable, even to hawks like me, what the raison d’être could have been for pulling Begg off the streets and into the hands of the British security services in February of this year. Begg, as a former Guantanamo detainee, has form in the area of jihadism. Even when using a front group (Cage), he let his mask slip. No doubt he is a formidable asset to Britain’s intelligence gathering network.
Henning, remember, was captured by ISIS in December of 2013. Begg was collared in February.
Since then, little information has come to light as to what Begg’s arrest related to, and last week, he was mysteriously released, just days before Alan Henning’s beheading, and the statement from the British government that we now know where Jihadi John is.
Now these all may be coincidences, as these things often are. But when you consider that Mr Henning’s de facto boss, Adeel Ali, who ran the Al-Fatiha charity that Henning helped fundraise for, was caught posing for pictures with jihadists before a Sun expose in March, the situation becomes more hazy.
And who was friends with Mr Ali? None other than Mr Begg, who made several trips to Syria between 2011 and 2012.
Suddenly – perhaps when it was clear that Jihadi John and his cohorts had been found, or when it transpired that it was not possible to extract Mr Henning, as we now know is the case – the prosecution’s case against Mr Begg evaporated, and he was let go.
Mr Begg previously signed a confession admitting his role as a jihadist recruiter, and further admitted that he attended three al Qaeda terrorist-training camps in Afghanistan. He has since, however, recanted on these confessions, claiming they were made under duress while imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay.
Since his release, Begg has become the poster boy for human rights campaigners including Amnesty International, which suffered its own, internal fractures as a result of working with the man. Gita Saghal, the former head of Amnesty’s Gender Unit, called Mr Begg Britain’s “most famous supporter of the Taliban”.
Begg has a chequered history of involvement with Islamic radicalism, including incidents in the United Kingdom, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
In 2009, it became apparent that the attempted ‘underwear bomber’ Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab had invited Mr Begg to give a number of presentations to the University College London’s Islamic Society prior to the former’s attempted act of terrorism.