British citizen Anjem Choudary is an internationally designated Islamist cleric and convicted ISIS supporter. Choudary’s Islamist speeches, anti-Western rhetoric, and declared support for violent Islamist movements drew the attention of British authorities, who connected Choudary to manifold terror-related cases in the United Kingdom and Europe. Choudary was arrested in 2014 after he pledged allegiance to ISIS, but he was released on parole in 2018 after serving only half of his sentence. Though British police continue to monitor his movements and communications, Choudary remains a dangerous and influential figure. The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) has compiled a list of violent individuals and organizations that Choudary influenced or communicated with throughout his career.
Choudary led the now-banned al-Muhajiroun Islamist network in the United Kingdom with his mentor, Omar Bakri Muhammad. Between 1999 and 2016, Choudary and al-Muhajiroun were reportedly linked to almost one-quarter of the terror plots in the United Kingdom.* Fiona Hamilton, “Cleric’s network of hate inspired Isis plots at home and overseas,” The Times (London), August 17, 2016, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/cleric-s-network-of-hate-inspired-isis-plots-at-home-and-overseas-gz5hc7fqz x Authorities have noted Choudary’s influence in the failed 2004 fertilizer bomb plot, a failed 2012 plot to blow up a Territorial Army base with an explosives-filled toy car, and the 2017 London Bridge attack, among other plots. British police have identified at least 600 members of al-Muhajiroun who have been linked to terrorism. Nonetheless, a June 2019 report in British media revealed that none of these individuals were actually prosecuted for membership in al-Muhajiroun.*Lizzie Dearden, “Police admit failing to prosecute Islamists for membership of UK’s ‘most dangerous extremist group,’” Independent (London), June 28, 2019, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/uk-terror-attacks-prosecutions-anjem-choudary-alm-police-bombings-a8968956.html x
On November 29, 2019, known Choudary associate Usman Khan murdered two people and wounded three others in a knife attack on the London Bridge.*Caroline Wheeler and Matthew Robinson, “Usman Khan: knifeman was friend of hate preacher Anjem Choudary,” The Times (London), November 30, 2019, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/usman-khan-who-was-the-knifeman-xsb8g72n2; Danielle Sheridan, Patrick Sawer, Gabriella Swerling, Katie O’Neill, et al, “London Bridge attack: Suspect penned letter seeking ‘deradicalisation’ while in jail,” Telegraph (London), November 30, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/11/30/london-bridge-terror-attack-victims-stabbed-deaths-terror-suspect/.x Other notable violent extremists directly linked to Choudary include Lee Rigby murderers Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, London Bridge attackers Rachid Redouane and Khuram Shazad Butt, and suicide bomber Bilal Mohammed. British authorities jailed Richard Dart, Jahangir Alom, and Imran Mahmoud in 2010 for plotting a terror attack in England. Demonstrating the extent of Choudary’s influence, Choudary had previously converted Dart to Islam and publicly defended him after his arrest. Dart’s stepbrother, Robb Leech, told British media that Choudary had become a father figure to Dart. Choudary allegedly told Leech that “some brains need washing.”*Ollie Gillman, “‘Some brains needs washing’: What vile hate preacher Anjem Choudary told brother of convicted Muslim convert Richard Dart,” Daily Mail (London), August 17, 2016, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3744787/Some-brains-needs-washing-vile-hate-preacher-Anjem-Choudary-told-brother-convicted-Muslim-convert-Richard-Dart.htmlx
Choudary is also reportedly linked to some 300 individuals who have traveled to Syria to become foreign fighters for ISIS.*Mark White, “London Bridge attackers were part of banned jihadi network,” Sky News, June 6, 2017, https://news.sky.com/story/london-bridge-attacker-khuram-butt-was-part-of-banned-jihadi-network-10906091x British media dubbed Mohammed Reza Haque the “new Jihadi John” after he appeared in a 2016 ISIS execution video. Before traveling to Syria, Haque served as a bodyguard for Choudary at al-Muhajiroun rallies. *Josh Barrie, “’The Giant’: Second British extremist ‘identified in Isis video,’” Independent (London), January 17, 2016,https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/the-giant-second-british-extremist-identified-in-isis-video-a6818151.html; David Trayner, “Jihadi John 2: ISIS executioner ‘The Giant’ unmasked as British Anjem Choudary bodyguard,” Daily Star (London), December 18, 2016, https://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/latest-news/571228/isis-islamic-state-daesh-jihadi-john-2-british-giant-jihadi-Mohammed-Reza-Haque-executionx Siddhartha Dhar, a.k.a. Abu Rumaysah, fled to Syria in 2014 and wrote an ISIS recruitment manual for Western foreign fighters. Choudary associate Mohammed Mizanur Rahman initially converted Dhar to Islam, and Dhar later encouraged Choudary to support ISIS.* Omar Wahid, “Freed and back on London's streets: Hate preacher who inspired ISIS executioner is released after serving just half of his jail sentence,” Daily Mail (London), November 10, 2018, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6375975/Hate-preacher-inspired-ISIS-executioner-released-serving-just-half-jail-sentence.html; Heather Saul, “Isis ‘tourist guide’: British jihadist Abu Rumaysah publishes e-book comparing self-declared caliphate to ‘plush holiday resort,’” Independent (London), May 19, 2015, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/isis-tourist-guide-british-jihadist-abu-rumaysah-publishes-e-book-comparing-self-declared-caliphate-10260868.html x Rahman was arrested alongside Choudary in 2014 for supporting ISIS. Rahman was released early in 2018, though some British authorities reportedly consider him a bigger threat than Choudary because of his relative youth.*Robert Mendick, “Friend of Anjem Choudary ‘more dangerous than him’ as both ready themselves for release,” Telegraph(London), September 21, 2018, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/09/21/mizanur-rahman-poses-greater-threat-friend-anjem-choudary-released/; Omar Wahid, “Freed and back on London's streets: Hate preacher who inspired ISIS executioner is released after serving just half of his jail sentence,” Daily Mail (London), November 10, 2018, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6375975/Hate-preacher-inspired-ISIS-executioner-released-serving-just-half-jail-sentence.htmlx
Choudary and Bakri Muhammad dissolved al-Muhajiroun in 2004 ahead of a pending U.K. government ban. They reorganized the group under various aliases, including Islam4UK, Muslims Against Crusades, Call to Submission, Islamic Path, London School of Sharia, the Saved Sect or Savior Sect, Ahl ul-Sunnah Wa al-Jamma, and Al Ghurabaa. Al-Muhajiroun also launched a youth campaign with a conference, Muslim Youth: The Spark of the Fire, featuring extremist Choudary associates Abu Waleed and Abu Uzair.*Robert Mendick, “Islamist sect banned as security threat ‘is recruiting teenagers,’” Evening Standard (London), September 19, 2008, https://www.standard.co.uk/news/islamist-sect-banned-as-security-threat-is-recruiting-teenagers-6930171.htmlx Muslims Against Crusades threatened in April 2011 to disrupt the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. The group planned what it called a “forceful demonstration” and warned that unless Prince William “and his Nazi best man” Prince Harry immediately withdrew from the military, the “day which the nation has been dreaming of for so long will become a nightmare.”* Richard Esposito, Megan Chuchmach, and Brian Ross, “Britain’s Security Blanket for Royal Wedding Terror Triple Threat,” ABC News, April 19, 2011, https://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/britain-prepares-royal-wedding-terror-triple-threat/story?id=13401740; Ted Jeory, “Muslim hate cleric targets Kate Middleton's and Prince William’s big day,” Express (London), April 17, 2011, https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/241205/Muslim-hate-cleric-targets-Kate-Middleton-s-and-Prince-William-s-big-day x The U.K. government banned al-Muhajiroun and its other iterations in 2010.*“Ministers ban suspected aliases of banned extremist group,” BBC News, June 26, 2014, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-28049374; “Proscribed Terrorist Organizations,” Home Office, accessed August 16, 2016, 6, https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/538297/20160715-Proscription-website-update.pdf; “London cops sweep up 9 terror suspects,” CBS News, September 25, 2014, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/london-cops-sweep-up-9-terror-suspects-anjem-choudary/; Eilish O’Gara, “Radical UK Preacher Anjem Choudary Charged With Inviting Support for ISIS,” Newsweek, August 5, 2015, http://europe.newsweek.com/radical-uk-preacher-anjem-choudary-charged-inviting-support-isis-331221.x
Despite the ban, media reports surfaced in May 2019 that al-Muhajiroun had begun to regroup. Though Choudary remains under tight surveillance, his October 2018 release from prison inspired others to revive al-Muhajiroun, according to British authorities and former members of the group. The network reportedly began meeting again in London, the county of Bedfordshire, and Luton, an English town previously known for its large al-Muhajiroun presence and regular Choudary lectures before his arrest.*
Ceylan Yeginsu, “One of U.K.’s Most Prolific Extremist Cells Is Regrouping,” New York Times, May 18, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/18/world/europe/uk-extremist-cell-anjem-choudary.html x