Tuesday 12 December 2017

Tunisian terror chief 'living on benefits in £1m UK house'

Tunisian soldiers and police patrol the area of Mount Salloum near Algeria's border in Kasserine,Tunisia
Tunisian soldiers and police patrol the area of Mount Salloum near Algeria's border in Kasserine,Tunisia

Victoria Ward

A leader of the terrorist group suspected of being behind the Tunisian beach massacre is living on benefits in Britain.

Hani al-Sibai, an al-Qa'ida cleric suspected of radicalising 'Jihadi John', lives in a £1m house on a leafy street in fashionable west London.

He is said to be one of the "key influencers" of the Islamic fanatics believed to have recruited and trained gunman Seifeddine Rezgui.

Egyptian-born al-Sibai (54) reportedly lives on £50,000 a year in handouts and disability living allowance with his wife and five children.

Asked how he could justify taking so much in benefits, al-Sibai, who is under investigation suspected of benefit fraud, said: "Ask David Cameron, don't ask me."

Keith Vaz, chairman of the home affairs select committee, said he was writing to Home Secretary Theresa May to demand an explanation as to why al-Sibai is still in the country.

"It is extraordinary that successive governments have been trying but failing to remove someone who has these worrying links," he said.

"The way he has foiled attempts to remove him are a cause for enormous concern."

Tory MP Peter Bone added: "This is the sort of thing that drives my constituents mad. I expect the Home Secretary to deal with this urgently. There is a very strong case for him to be deported. He needs to be dealt with."

Al-Sibai is understood to have close links to Tunisian terror group Ansar al-Sharia, which authorities believe to have trained Rezgui.

He is cited at length in a 2013 report by the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism in The Hague, and is described as one of its "key influencers".

Security services are understood to be investigating links between al-Sibai and his influence on the west London terror network in which Jihadi John - unmasked as Mohammed Emwazi - operated.

It is claimed that al-Sibai, a charismatic preacher, had "captivated" a number of young Muslim men who subsequently went abroad to fight jihad.

In a court case last year, he was accused of having "provided material support to al-Qa'ida and conspired to commit terrorist acts", an allegation he denies. The Department for Work and Pensions said: "People who commit, plan and support acts of terror will be prosecuted and anyone who has been deported or sent to prison will lose their benefits.' The Home Office said: 'We do not routinely comment on individual cases."

Meanwhile, it has emerged yesterday that sun-seeking Europeans are avoiding Tunisia and switching to destinations such as Spain, Bulgaria or even Greece for holidays this year.

Tunisia's tourism industry had been recovering after the Arab Spring unrest.

Last year, 2.8 million travelled there, rebounding back towards the 3.8 million level seen in 2010 before the uprising.

But last week's attack added to security fears raised after a massacre at the Bardo Museum in March, when two gunmen opened fire on tourists.

Now many tourists who had planned or booked Tunisian trips are looking elsewhere. (© Daily Telegraph, London)


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