There were minor scuffles in Luton, Bedfordshire yesterday as Islamic extremists, waving placards saying ‘Anglian soldiers: Butchers of Basra,’ and ‘Anglian soldiers: cowards, killers, extremists' clashed with ordinary members of the public who welcomed home British soldiers of the 2nd Battallion Royal Anglian Regiment, nicknamed The Poachers, who have just served in Iraq.

The sick Islamists showed their vile placards as the soldiers marched past on a homecoming parade. Later, they clashed with army supporters who waved English flags and placards saying things such as "No surrender to the Taliban" and "Thank you for your courage."

Muslim hate preacher ridicules troops abused in anti-war protests - and mocks their dead comrade

By Michael Seamark, Andrew Levy and Matt Sandy
11th March 2009
Daily Mail

A Muslim preacher of hate today ridiculed British soldiers who were abused during a homecoming parade - branding them cowards who have an 'uncanny knack for death by friendly fire'.

Firebrand preacher Anjem Choudary praised the Muslims who had protested at yesterday's parade for the 2nd Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment in Luton.

And in an inflammatory message posted on an Islamic extremist website, Choudary viciously mocked their comrade who was killed by friendly fire in Iraq.

His words came as police charged a man who allegedly shouted abuse at the Muslim anti-war protesters.

Venom: Faces contorted with fury, some of the Muslim demonstrator who marred the homecoming of the Royal Anglian Regiment yesterday

Choudary, who has links with banned Muslim cleric Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, likened the soldiers to Nazis and branded yesterday's homecoming a 'vile parade' of 'brutal murderers'.

Choudary said: 'On 10th March 2009 200 pathetic and cowardly British soldiers from the second battalion, of the Royal Anglian Regiment, pompously marched through Luton to demonstrate their skill at murdering and torturing thousands of innocent Muslim men, women and children (in Iraq) over a 24-month period.'

Choudary leads the controversial Islam For The UK organisation which wants Britain to be an Islamic state, ruled by Sharia law.

His group was formed after Bakri's fundamentalist organisation Al-Muhajiroun was banned by the Government.

He said: 'Non-Muslims in Britain must appreciate that the actions of the British soldiers must be condemned unreservedly; they are not heroes but closer to cowards who cannot fight, as their uncanny knack for death by 'friendly fire' illustrates.'

His cruel comments were clearly designed to mock the memory of Private Darren George, 23, from Pirbright, Surrey, who was accidentally shot by a colleague in Kabul on April 9, 2002.

Anjem Choudary has praised the Muslim anti-war protesters while hate preacher Omar Bakri has said he feels pride at their demonstration

Today it was revealed that yesterday's shocking scenes were likely to have been organised by an extremist group directly linked to Bakri Mohammed.

Within hours of the march ending the London School of Sharia had posted a message in support on its website.

The group is led by Bakri, the 'Tottenham Ayotollah', who now preaches to his followers from Lebanon via videos posted on websites after he was barred from Britain.

Bakri, 51, today said he felt 'proud' of the Luton protesters but denied any involvement in organising the demonstration.

The preacher, speaking from the Lebanon, said: 'My brothers from Luton were protesting against people they see as killers of Muslims in Iraq - including women and children'

But one Muslim community leader today condemned the extremists.

Akbar Dad Khan, of Building Bridges in the town, said: 'They are about 10 to 15 hotheads. The best thing to do is just to ignore them. They do not represent the views of the community. They are a small hotch-potch of hot heads.

'They love the attention and the media should not give them the time of day. The vast majority of the Muslim population in Luton - like elsewhere - want to live peacefully and get on with their lives.'

Returning heroes: Members of the 2nd Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment parading through Luton yesterday after their tour of duty in Iraq

'Many people from all backgrounds opposed the Iraq war but there are proper ways to conduct yourself,' he added.

One protester at yesterday's rally, Sayful Islam, the leader of the Luton branch of an organisation that has the same beliefs as al-Muhajiroun, was unrepentant today.

He said: 'The anger has been rising. The parade was the final insult. They have killed, maimed and raped thousands of innocent people. They can't come here and parade where there is such a Muslim community.'

Last month members of the same group were seen at an anti-Israel demonstration in the Bedfordshire town.

In his internet posting, Anjem Choudary said that the British soldiers were 'terrorists'.

He said: 'They cannot be excused for simply 'carrying out their duty', which incidentally (and vividly) was also used by Nazi soldiers in Germany to justify their notorious and bloody campaigns in the early 20th century.'

Sickening: The protesters had printed out placards, branding the soldiers of the 2nd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment 'cowards' and 'killers'

Police closely monitor the anti-Army group as the 200-strong regiment passes through Luton town centre

Yesterday the 200 troops were faced with the hate-filled jeers of anti-war protesters waving placards saying: ‘Anglian soldiers: Butchers of Basra,’ and ‘Anglian soldiers: cowards, killers, extremists.’

Police were already out in force to protect the anti-war group and arrested two men among the soldiers’ supporters.

Last night the mother of David Hicks, a captain with the Royal Anglian Regiment who was killed in Afghanistan in August 2007, called the protests ‘extremely distressing’.

‘I felt very saddened and extremely upset,’ said Mrs Hicks, of Wokingham, Berkshire. ‘I also feel a little angry. I think every mother or father who has lost somebody in Afghanistan or Iraq would feel very difficult about this.

‘It’s very easy to tarnish all the Muslim community with the same brush, but I do wonder, if the roles were reversed, if such a protest would be allowed in a Muslim country.’

Gordon Brown condemned the protests and ministers and senior politicians branded the demonstration ‘insulting’ and ‘sordid.’

Shadow Secretary of State for Defence Dr Liam Fox said: ‘This is offensive, appalling and disgraceful.

Elsewhere along the route hundreds of townsfolk turned out to clap and cheer on the soldiers

Tempers flared as pro-Army supporters took offence at the small protest and police were forced to separate the groups

'It is only because of the sacrifices made by our armed forces that these people live in a free society where they are able to make their sordid protests.’

Luton South Labour MP Margaret Moran called for an inquiry into the way police handled the incident.

She said: ‘Calling people baby-killers and the rest seems to amount to provocation of the worst kind when these lads and lasses have risked their lives for the freedom these people enjoy. It seems to me this amounted to huge provocation and was potentially racially divisive.’

But the Muslim protesters were unrepentant. Teacher Sayful Islam, self-styled leader of the Luton branch of al-Muhajiroun – the now-banned radical organisation led by Sheikh Omar Bakri – said: ‘The anger has been rising. The parade was the final insult.

‘They have killed, maimed and raped thousands of innocent people. They can’t come here and parade where there is such a Muslim community. What do they have to be proud of?’

Posters were displayed accusing the Army of maiming babies and innocent civilians in Iraq

Counter attack: A placard spells out backing for our troops

The battalion is based in Germany, but Bedfordshire is one of the areas where it recruits, along with neighbouring Hertfordshire and Northamptonshire.

Trouble flared as the soldiers marched to a meeting with the Duke of Gloucester, the regiment’s colonel-in-chief, and local dignitaries.

He said:' The anger has been rising up. The parade was the final insult.

'They have killed, maimed and raped thousands of innocent people. They can't come here and parade where there is such a Muslim community. What do they have to be proud of?'

Leaflets urging Muslims to demonstrate against the soldiers' homecoming had been distributed around Luton earlier in the week.

Under the headline 'Criminals' it railed against the troops' 'audacity' at marching though the town centre and accused them of having 'blood on their hands.'

View from behind the veil: A group of Muslim women at the demonstration

Sign of dissent: An anti-government message

It read 'Muhammad said :"He among you who sees a munkar (evil) should change it with his hand. If he can not do that , then with his tongue(by speaking out against it)".'

It finished with the words:' We urge the Muslims of Luton not to stay silent against these murderers of Muslim men, women and children and to do what we as Muslims have been obliged to do and speak against an open evil.'

Police had penned the protesters into a small area and two lines of officers separated them from a large number of local people, waving Union and St George’s flags. At one point a man climbed onto a roof and threw a packet of bacon at the Muslim group.

Bedfordshire police said the Muslim protesters were later ‘escorted from the area to a safe place to disperse’.

The force said last night: ‘Everything that went on will be examined and if any offences have been committed then we will arrest them.’

An Army spokesman said the battalion, which is due to take part in a similar march in Watford today, was ‘deeply touched’ by the strong support shown by the people of Luton.

He said: ‘There is no better boost to a soldier than to see hundreds of people turn out to watch them on parade.'

The regiment's tragic roll call

The Royal Anglian Regiment has lost ten soldiers during the Afghan conflict and two during the Iraq conflict.

Those killed in Afghanistan are:
  • Private Aaron McClure, 19, from Ipswich, Suffolk; Private Robert Foster, 19, from Harlow, Essex; and Private John Thrumble, 21, from Chelmsford, Essex. All three were killed in a ‘ friendlyfire’ attack by a U.S. F15 fighter plane in Helmand on August 23, 2007.
  • Captain David Hicks, 26, from Wokingham, Berkshire, was killed on August 11, 2007, when a patrol base in Helmand was attacked by small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades.
  • Private Tony Rawson, 27, from Dagenham, Essex, was killed on August 10, 2007, when his ‘attack’ patrol came under fire from the Taliban in Helmand.
  • Lance Corporal Alex Hawkins, 22, from East Dereham, Norfolk, was killed on July 25, 2007, by an explosion as his patrol returned to base in Helmand.
  • Corporal Darren Bonner, 31, from Gorleston, Norfolk, was killed on May 28, 2007, by an explosion when his convoy was attacked in Helmand.
  • Lance Corporal George Davey, 23, from Beccles, Suffolk, shot himself during ‘a tragic firearms accident’ in Helmand on May 20. 2007.
  • Private Chris Gray, 19, from Leicester, was killed during a firefight with the Taliban in Helmand on April 13, 2007.
  • Private Darren George, 23, from Pirbright, Surrey, was shot by a colleague who had a ‘dizzy spell’ while handling a machine gun in Kabul on April 9, 2002.
Those killed in Iraq are:
  • Private Adam Morris, 19, from Leicestershire; and Private Joseva Lewaicei, 25, from Fiji. Both were killed by a roadside bomb on patrol in Basra on May 13, 2006.