The Luton mosque where Swedish suicide bomber Taimur Abdulwahab al-Abdaly worshipped did not tell police about his radical views, despite expelling him from the centre, Channel 4 News has learned.
Chairman of Luton Islamic Centre, Qadeer Baksh kicked out al-Abdaly, 28, who is suspected of blowing himself up on a busy shopping street in Stockholm on Saturday, around three years ago, after he presented radical interpretations of the Koran.
But Mr Baksh, who is known as a moderate Muslim and an anti-extremist figurehead in the community, said that he did not inform the police or Mi5, because he did not believe that al-Abdaly was capable of terrorist acts.
He said: “It was the general public, worshippers, that brought it to the committee’s attention that there was someone in here teaching something that is alien to Islam – extremist views.
“So I went and I faced him. I challenged his thoughts and his ideas and we got into a theological debate.
“This continued for a few days but every time I left him, I believed that he was now content with my interpretation, my explanation, and that he was misguided.”
Mr Baksh said he went away, only to hear later from the community that al-Abdaly had been trying to spread more extremist views among them.
He described how he confronted him: “I went to him and I said ‘What is it this time?’. And he came with a different doubt. So I rebutted that, and I thought he was fine.
“He took a dislike to that. He got very upset. He just got up and he stormed out and we never heard from him again after that.”
But Mr Baksh said the alleged bomber was a “very bubbly character”, kind and gentle, and people liked him.
He said: “The community did not know that he would take it so far as to then sew the seeds of discord and extremism.”
Mr Baksh said people in his community would report a fellow worshiper if they suspected him of being a potential terrorist.
He said: “If we believed that somebody was a threat to anybody, Muslim or non-Muslim, if we believed somebody had the ability to perform a terrorist act, we would act immediately without even a second thought, and we would inform the police and the authorities.”
Today, a property in Luton is being searched by police as part of an investigation into the blast in Stockholm, as an audio file warning of an attack emerged.
Officers searched the property after a warrant was issued last night under the Terrorism Act 2000, the Metropolitan Police said.
A terraced property in the Bedfordshire town was cordoned off today, with officers seen going in and out.
It is believed Abdaly, who lived in England for 10 years, blew himself up after he had tried to set off the car bomb. Two people were wounded in the explosion.
A Home Office spokesman said: “We remain in close contact with the Swedish authorities.
“It would be inappropriate to comment on their ongoing investigation at this time.”
Scotland Yard said no arrests had been made and no hazardous materials found.
Before the blasts the bomber sent an audio file via email to Swedish police in which he warned “our actions will speak for themselves”.
Speaking with an English accent the voice attacks Sweden’s support for the war in Afghanistan and an image by a Swedish artist who depicted the Prophet Mohammed as a dog.
“Now the Islamic state has been created, the voice, believed to be al-Abdaly, says. “We now exist here in Europe and in Sweden. We are a reality. I don’t want to say more about this. Our actions will speak for themselves.”
The man also warned that the “Islamic state” had begun to “fulfil its promises” and warned that the oppression of Muslims “will not be tolerated”.
Al-Abdaly listed himself on Muslim dating website Muslima as a physical therapy graduate from Bedfordshire University.
According to The Daily Telegraph, he lived in Luton and neighbours last saw him two and a half weeks ago.
Tahir Hussain, 33, a taxi driver who lives nearby, told the paper: “I used to see him around often. He didn’t say much but seemed nice. I used to see him walking with his kids.
“I was shocked when I heard what happened because I never thought he could do such a thing.”
I was shocked when I heard what happened because I never thought he could do such a thing. Tahir Hussain
More than 300 people have joined a group set up on Facebook titled “RIP Taimour Abdulwahab our brother and friend”.
He wrote on Muslima that he was born in Baghdad and moved to Sweden in 1992 before coming to the UK in 2001. He said he was married in 2004 and had two young girls.
“I want to get married again, and would like to have a big family. My wife agreed to this,” he wrote.
He described himself as economically “OK” and said that when he had extra money he gave it to the needy.
“In the future, am looking for to move to a Arabic country and settle down there…” al-Abdaly added.
Bedfordshire University was not available to comment last night.
An audio file sent to Swedish news agency TT shortly before the blast referred to jihad, saying: “Now the Islamic state has been created. We now exist here in Europe and in Sweden. We are a reality. I don’t want to say more about this. Our actions will speak for themselves.”
Sweden has a military presence in Afghanistan and a Swedish cartoon that depicted the Prophet Mohammed as a dog enraged the Muslim world.
The country had never experienced a suicide bombing and has not had a terrorist attack since the 1970s.
Prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said the attack was “unacceptable”.
He said: “Sweden is an open society… which has stated a wish that people should be able to have different backgrounds, believe in different gods… and live side by side in our open society.”