Ilford gym and school owner denies involvement with Jihadi training camps

Ummah Fitness Centre. Picture: Met Police

Ummah Fitness Centre. Picture: Met Police - Credit: Archant

The owner of an Ilford gym attended by the London Bridge terrorists has denied he was involved with a Jihadi training camp in Pakistan, an inquest heard.

Sajeel Shahid, who ran the Ummah Fitness Centre, St Luke's Avenue, and also the Ad-Deen Primary School, Oxford Road, had been previously accused of leading the Al-Muhajiroun network in Pakistan by a key witness in the fertiliser bomb plot trial.

He was also linked to explosives training at the Malakand camp according to Mohammed Junaid Babar, whose statement from 2007 was read at the London Bridge inquest.

All three terrorists, Khuram Butt, 27, of Barking, Youssef Zaghba, 22 of Ilford and Rachid Redouane, 30, frequented Mr Shahid's gym, and Butt and Zaghba taught at his school.

On June, 3, 2017 they Killed eight and wounded 48 with a van and knife attack in London Bridge.

Giving evidence at the Old Bailey, Mr Shahid denied he was a leader of Al-Muhajiroun and said he had disassociated from the group after the September 11 2001 attacks.

The business man who lived in Pakistan from about 2000 until 2004, rejected claims he set up an office for the group in the country.

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Counsel to the coroner, Jonathan Hough QC, asked whether Mr Shahid was "associated with people who ran explosive training".

The witness replied that it is"not true", adding: "I have never travelled with him (Mr Babar)."

The inquest also heard Mr Shahid has repeatedly refused to give a witness statement to police about the London Bridge attack.

The former fitness centre owner, who has no criminal record, said he was "cautious" because of how he has been previously portrayed in the media.

He said in hindsight he should have given a statement, but added: "I was fully aware that I had no involvement in the incident."

Referring to Butt's extremist views, he added: "If he was doing it, he was doing it behind the backs of the employers."

Detective Superintendent Becky Rigg, a senior investigating officer, told the inquest that before the attacks, counter-terror police were not aware of Mr Shahid's links to the gym or school.

The inquest continues.