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'Confused' Venezuelan admits flying to UK with grenade

By Times Online and agencies

April 05, 2005 | A man who flew to Britain intending to blow himself up in a public protest today admitted to having a hand grenade hidden in his luggage.

Hazil Rahaman-Alan, a 39-year-old Venezuelan Muslim, was arrested after the grenade was found in a random Customs check as he arrived at Gatwick Airport from Caracas in February 2003. It was hidden in the transformer of a knee massager.

But Ramahan Alan, who was described in court as "confused", had apparently not known that the grenade was useless because its detonator had been removed.

The find, made after Rahaman-Alan had cleared Gatwick immigration by saying he was visiting his mother in Holland, closed the airport's North Terminal. Forty flights were delayed in the resulting six-hour security operation.

He pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey today to having an M26 hand grenade with intent to endanger life or cause serious injury. He also pleaded guilty to having a dangerous article on the aircraft.

Rahaman-Alan told police he had wanted to blow himself up in an open area, possibly a park. Nicholas Dean QC, prosecuting, said his motives were obscure.

They varied from wanting to help humanity and the plight of children of the world. He had also said that the grenade would be his "microphone to the world".

Mr Dean said: "At one point he said he wished to help improve airport security."

But he denied being a terrorist or having sympathy with any terrorist cause, which the prosecution accepted.

Rahaman-Alan comes from a wealthy family that lives near Caracas. His father emigrated to Venezuela from Trinidad in 1960 and worked for 32 years as a public relations officer at the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Caracas.

Rahaman-Alan was the youngest son and went to Saudi Arabia to become a Muslim preacher. But he returned to nurse his dying fatherm whom he idolised. After his father's death in 1999, Rahaman-Alan gave up his studies and appears to have had a breakdown.

Mr Dean said it was accepted that Rahaman-Alan was not a terrorist. But he said what the Venezuelan had planned to do and partly succeeded in doing "was highly dangerous and disruptive."

"In some respects he could not have done more to convince people he was a terrorist and had he carried out what he intended to do and died, it would have been assumed he was a terrorist and been acclaimed by or for some extremist cause."

It was unclear what led to Rahaman-Alan deciding to blow himself up. "He was the main carer for his father and the fatherís death was part of the cause for depression from which he suffered," said Mr Dean.

Althouh Rahaman-Alan is a devout Muslim, the court heard that there was no suggestion that he held extremist political or religious views or was exposed to radical elements while working at the mosque in Saudi Arabia.

Mr Dean said that "for reasons sometimes vague and confused" the Venezuelan went to a poor area of Caracas and bought the grenade from petty criminals for less than 50 pounds. He hid the grenade on a beach and attempted to fly to Germany but was unable to because he did not have a return ticket. A week later, he bought a return ticket to Britain and travelled with British Airways to Gatwick.

When he checked in a small backpack containing the grenade, he requested that it have a 'fragile' sticker stuck on it and that it travel in the hold.

Mr Dean said: "There is nothing to suggest Mr Rahaman-Alan had any angst against the United Kingdom. He knew very little about this country. Anywhere he was able to spread his message would have done."

The case was adjourned until May 20 for a psychiatric report. Rahaman-Alan was remanded in custody. Deportation papers had already been served.

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