British PM 'appalled' by planned Islamist march

LONDON- Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Monday he was "appalled" at a planned march by Islamists through the town where Britain's Afghanistan war dead are repatriated, branding it "abhorrent and offensive".
The group Islam4UK wants to commemorate the Muslim civilians killed in the conflict with a march through Wootton Bassett in southwest England, where hundreds of people regularly gather to pay their respects to dead British soldiers as their coffins pass through the main street.

Mourners in Wootton Bassett in 2009, throwing flowers on hearses carrying the bodies of eight British soldiers killed in Afghanistan (AFP/File/Carl de Souza)
Mourners in Wootton Bassett in 2009, throwing flowers on hearses carrying the bodies of eight British soldiers killed in Afghanistan (AFP/File/Carl de Souza)
Although no date has been set, the suggestion of such a protest, in a place that has come to symbolise public respect for the war dead, has caused uproar.
"I am personally appalled by the prospect of a march in Wootton Bassett," Brown said in a statement.
"I believe that we as a nation should honour those brave servicemen and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
"Wootton Bassett has a special significance for us all at this time, as it has been the scene of the repatriation of many members of our armed forces who have tragically fallen.
"Any attempt to use this location to cause further distress and suffering to those who have lost loved ones would be abhorrent and offensive."
Anjem Choudary, the leader of Islam4UK, admitted that choosing Wootton Bassett was designed to gain publicity.
"We need to gain media attention in order to highlight the plight of the ordinary men, women and children who are being mercilessly murdered in Afghanistan," he told Sky News television.
A total of 108 British soldiers died in Afghanistan in 2009 compared to 2,038 civilians in the first 10 months of the year, according to the United Nations mission in Afghanistan.
The mother of Private Richard Hunt, the 200th soldier killed in the conflict, called the march a "complete and utter insult" to Wootton Bassett and "all the dead servicemen and women like my son."
"It should be stopped because basically it's going to cause so much distress to so many people. It's not right and it should not be allowed," Hazel Hunt told ITV television.
Choudary also praised Al-Qaeda terror network chief Osama bin Laden, who he said was hugely popular and would win any election in the Muslim world.
Islam4UK calls itself a platform for Al-Muhajiroun, a radical group now disbanded which used to be headed by Omar Bakri, an Islamist preacher barred from Britain for his views.
Separately, seven Muslim men appeared in court in Luton, north of London, on Monday charged in connection with protests at a homecoming parade in March 2009 for British soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The court heard how the men told the soldiers to "burn in hell" and branded them rapists, murderers and baby killers.
Jalal Ahmed, 21, Yousaf Bashir, 29, Jubair Ahmed, 19, Ziaur Rahman, 32, Shajjadar Choudhury, 31, Munim Abdul, 28, and Ibrahim Anderson, 32, all from Luton, deny using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress.

Monday, January 4th 2010

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