British terrorist suspect 'fought in the Bosnian war'
The Times (London) - September 15, 2005, Thursday

By: Sean O'Neill

A BRITISH terrorist suspect told the Old Bailey yesterday that he went to Bosnia a decade ago to fight with the Mujahidin against the Serb Army.

Andrew Rowe, a former drug dealer who converted to Islam when he was 19, said that he travelled to Bosnia in 1995 as a volunteer aid worker but became convinced of the need to do more.

"I wanted to participate and help people defend themselves against an aggressive force," Mr Rowe told a jury.

Mark Ellison, for the prosecution, asked: "Were you prepared to fight?"

Mr Rowe replied: "Yes. The situation in Bosnia required more than aid, it needed able-bodied people to help defend the Bosnians. It was accepted that I was there to help these people defend themselves and their lands."

Mr Rowe, 34, a father of four children, said that he was badly injured when a convoy of Bosnian soldiers, including Arab fighters, was shelled in July 1995. He spent three months in hospital before he returned to Britain on crutches.

But he denied that he had been motivated by the call to global jihad, or holy war, issued by extremist groups.

Mr Rowe admits replacing his passport three times in the past ten years and having travelled to Morocco, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, but denies any involvement in terrorism.

Mr Rowe said that he had also been prepared to travel to countries bordering Chechnya to do aid work and to act as a courier carrying military equipment and ordnance.

He was arrested in October 2003 by British police at the French entrance in Coquelles to the Channel Tunnel, when on his way from Frankfurt to London.

Searches of his luggage and properties connected to him unearthed a number of items that he is alleged to have possessed for terrorist purposes He had a rolled up pair of socks, impregnated with traces of military explosives, which had a length of cord attached and could have been used for cleaning a mortar barrel.

Searches of flats revealed a notebook containing handwritten instructions on aiming a mortar and a codebook devised for communicating with contacts whom Mr Rowe refused to name.

Mr Rowe, who made no comment in several interviews with police after his arrest, took the witness stand at his trial to explain why he had the three items. He denies four charges relating to their possession for the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.

Mr Rowe told the court that he had used socks like gloves in Bosnia in 1995 when unloading shells and boxes of ammunition. Later he had attached the cord to the socks to hang them up and use them as a training aid for practising Jujitsu.

He said that he had not washed the socks between using them to carry munitions in 1995 and his arrest eight years later.

He said that the instructions on using a mortar were a copy of notes that he had been given to read by a military commander in Bosnia.

Mr Rowe said that he had never fired a mortar, but kept the notes as "memorabilia" of his time in the "war zone".

The codebook, which substituted mobile phone model serial numbers for words such as target, explosives and weapons, had been devised, he said, by contacts who wanted him to act as a courier on the Chechen borders. He added: "I know their names but I am not prepared to say the names."

Mr Rowe told the court that he had converted to Islam after meeting a Muslim friend with whom he used to take Ecstasy and talk about religion into the early hours of the morning.

He said: "I was living in a hostel, selling drugs and things. I got to the stage of no return. I knew the big fish and was involved in selling large amounts of drugs.

"At the same time I'd met this friend and was interested in Islam but I was still partying, raving and making money. I had a car and a mobile phone, but I hadn't found the happiness I thought I would find.

"Islam gave me a sense of peace of mind and a new meaning to my life."

The trial continues.

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