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The sidewalks where terror breeds

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Outside a small, red-brick mosque, a young Muslim in sneakers and a white robe is lecturing a cluster of young men gathered on the sidewalk.

"The London bombings ... were about striking terror into the heart of the enemy," he thunders, just one week after the 7/7 attacks that killed 56 people and wounded hundreds more.

Muslims around the world are being slaughtered, he tells them. "All we ask them is: 'Remove your troops from Muslim lands and we will stop all of this.' " The men nod in agreement. One glances into the baby stroller he's pushing. Car after car races past.

The preacher, who calls himself Abu Osama ("Father of Osama"), is one of a new breed of British radicals thriving at the margins of London's Muslim community.

Young, independent, and streetwise, they are preaching in urban slang outside the confines of Britain's mosques. They are helping teens and 20-somethings beat drugs and alcohol. And they are inspiring a new pool of impressionable young Muslims to consider killing their fellow Britons.

These radical bands constitute a small fraction of London's 1 million Muslims. But their freewheeling ideology - hardened in the jihadi echo chambers of cliques like Abu Osama's - is creating a new subculture within Britain's Islamic community. So far, the growing influence of these informal, maverick groups has gone largely undetected - and unchecked.

As older, camera-courting, foreign-born extremists like Omar Bakri and Abu Hamza al-Masri recede from relevance, their younger counterparts are striking out quietly and independently with a new brand of do-it-yourself radicalism.

"On the ground level, people like Bakri don't communicate with the youth," says Nadim Shehadi, an analyst at Chatham House, a think tank in London. The fragmentation of British radical groups and their dispersal underground, he adds, is the "worst of all possible options."

"When the Muslim Council of Britain [MCB] said 'We must be vigilant,' this pushed [radical groups] underground," says Abdul-Rehman Malik, contributing editor at the Muslim magazine Q-News, based London. As radicals fled to minor mosques and homes, Britain's security services, and even mainstream Muslims, lost track of them.


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