UK: Somali Manchester terror suspect ‘living freely in Denmark’

A terror suspect from Manchester who is banned from returning to Britain is living freely in Denmark, Newsbeat can reveal.

Ahmed Halane, 22, a Danish citizen who grew up in Bolton and Chorlton, is suspected of fighting with militant groups abroad.

He is the elder brother of Zahra and Salma Halane, who ran away to Syria to become jihadi brides in June last year.

Sources say Ahmed Halane joined jihadists in Syria and Somalia.

He is now living in the Danish city of Aarhus and appears to be free to travel around the EU, even though the UK authorities have deemed him a security risk.

He is subject to an exclusion order which prohibits him from re-entering Britain.

“Exclusion orders are not a step that’s taken lightly by the authorities,” says Stephen Grosz QC and chair of the Law Society’s human rights committee.

Jihadi brides posing with guns in an Islamic State propaganda picture
Jihadi brides posing with guns in an Islamic State propaganda picture

From a religious family of Somali origin, Ahmed Halane was a pupil at Burnage Academy for Boys who had memorised the Koran by the age of 13.

Sources have told Newsbeat that he was radicalised after listening to extremist preachers online, including Anwar Al-Awlaki, a US-born radical Islamist cleric and al-Qaeda leader who was killed in Yemen.

A person who knew Ahmed Halane describes him as “two-faced”, someone who only showed his “extremist views” to young people.

He was an “inciter” who was “brainwashed by listening to deviant men”, says the source.

“He opposes and goes against everything my religion stands for,” Newsbeat was told. “He calls to ideologies which result in the killing of innocent people.”

Tracking Britain’s jihadists

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A BBC investigation has documented the Britons known to have died in Syria and Iraq, those who have been convicted of offences relating to the conflict there and those believed to be living in territory controlled by Islamic State.

It includes the stories of:

  • 36 who are reported to have died
  • 13 who have been convicted by British courts
  • and many others who we have established are alive and active in Syria or Iraq.
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Ahmed Halane’s twin sisters, Zahra and Salma, have also been used to promote propaganda online for the self-declared Islamic State.

The girls, who are now 17, married IS fighters after arriving in Syria, but both husbands were killed in fighting.

“His twin sisters were inspired by him, but he didn’t tell them to go to Syria,” says one source close to the Halane family.

‘Don’t say that’

We tracked down Ahmed Halane in Aarhus. He told Newsbeat that he had not recently spoken to his sisters because they had not been online for a month.

He has been attending a mosque that has been accused of encouraging young people to fight in Syria.

“It’s just the last maybe 20 days [that he has attended the mosque],” says Oussama el-Saadi, the chairman of Grimhoj mosque in Aarhus.

The mosque had repeatedly been accused of promoting an extremist interpretation of Islam, but now works with police and social workers to try to reintegrate returnee fighters into society.

There have been mixed results – one person, who was part of the programme, has returned to Syria.

“We give a very clear message to our people here in the mosque, that we are a part of this country,” Mr El-Saadi tells Newsbeat.

“We don’t accept by any way to destroy this society we live in,” he says, denying that the mosque radicalises young people.

Danish authorities say 22 Aarhus residents who travelled to Syria last year previously attended Grimhoj mosque.

Ahmad Halane in a YouTube video
Ahmad Halane in a YouTube video

We saw Ahmed Halane close to the mosque hanging out with a number of former jihadi fighters who have returned from Syria.

Officials say no returnee fighters in Denmark have been jailed.

“Some of these people have obviously committed crimes, but if we can’t prove it we can’t send them to prison,” Aarhus Mayor Jacob Bundsgaard tells Newsbeat.

“If that’s not possible [imprisonment], we need to do everything in our power to make sure they are reintegrating back into society,” he says.

A friend of Ahmed Halane told us that he believes he was recently free to travel to Norway.

Newsbeat requested an interview with Danish police about the situation, but they declined to be questioned.

The Home Office says it will not comment on whether British officials have alerted other EU countries about Ahmed Halane’s exclusion order.

Ahmed Halane was reportedly radicalised online
Ahmed Halane was reportedly radicalised online
“It’s very likely that the intelligence would be shared within the intelligence community internationally, the fact there’s an exclusion order and the reasons for it,” says Stephen Grosz QC.

Ahmed Halane was born in Denmark and then moved with his family and sisters to Manchester.

He knew a number of Manchester terror suspects, including Nur Hassan and Mohammed Javeed, who travelled to Syria to join Islamic State in late 2013.

He left the UK and travelled to Cairo in Egypt to study the same year, but later went missing.

At around this time Ahmed Halane travelled to Somalia, somewhere he admits he lived. A source close to the family says he joined al Shabaab, a jihadi group linked to al-Qaeda.

A number of sources say he also travelled to Syria and was seen in the northern city of Manbij, where his twin sisters, now widows, are believed to be living.

We understand he denies going to Syria.

“I pray to Allah you come back to us and your homeland. I know evil men brainwashed [you],” says one message, posted on a social messaging site last year, apparently by a family member.

Another message read: “[The] UK government will forgive because they know children get misled.”

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Zahra and Salma Halane before they left to join so-called Islamic State

On a social media site, Ahmed Halane recently commented about his life, writing: “Interesting past.”

Newsbeat understands he is now being monitored by the Danish intelligence services.

The Halane family declined to speak to us about the developments.

Newsbeat hasn’t named sources to protect their identities.

BBC

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