He is a veteran of the CIA-backed jihad against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, where many of today’s Islamic militants got their start.
It was there that he earned his nom de guerre, Abu Hamza al-Masri. That was also where he lost both his hands and one eye, fighting alongside young Muslim men who eventually drove the Soviets out of Afghanistan in 1989.
The Egyptian-born cleric went to Britain and became part of a wave of militant exiles who fled crackdowns by their home governments in the Middle East. Al-Masri, now 47, began preaching at different London mosques and later settled in as imam of the Finsbury Park mosque.
By the late 1990s, al-Masri’s scorching rhetoric – and the metal hook he wears on one arm – made him Britain’s best-known Islamic radical. The British tabloids dubbed him “Hook,” and portrayed him as the product of misguided asylum policies.
Al-Masri, whose given name is Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, thrived on the attention. But after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, he also began attracting greater scrutiny from British authorities.
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