Terror suspect in town only 'short time'

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 07/06/2014

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An alleged al Qaeda member killed in a drone strike in Yemen spent time in Invercargill and attended an Invercargill mosque.

Christopher Havard, 27, was killed when a missile hit the car he was travelling in with another Australian-New Zealand national, Daryl Jones, and three members of terror group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) on November 19 last year.

However, Southland Muslim Association president Reza Abdul-Jabbar says Southlanders had no reason to be fearful of any radical Islam teachings in the south.

Muslims in Southland were dairy farmers, doctors and proud members of the community, he said.

Abdul-Jabbar said Havard, who introduced himself as Saleem, was in Invercargill for a short time about three or four years ago but did not make close associations within the southern Muslim community.

In the few times he spoke with Havard, there was nothing to suggest he would end up on the 6pm news as a suspected terrorist killed in a drone attack in Yemen.

"He was polite and calm and said he worked at a freezing works," Abdul-Jabbar said. "But really we didn't know anything about him."

Abdul-Jabbar, who leads the sermons, said there was no possibility Havard developed any radical ideologies from his short association with the Southland Muslim Association.

He told Radio New Zealand the sermons were "100 per cent non-radical" and he did not believe radicalism was being spread anywhere in New Zealand.

The mosque worked with New Zealand police with any intelligence matters if needed, Abdul-Jabbar said.

"Our members are part of the community, open and friendly and have nothing to hide."

The Southland Muslim Association was fully backed by Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand, the umbrella national organisation representing Muslims in New Zealand.

This week, Havard's parents told Australia's ABC News their son first encountered radical Islam when he moved to Christchurch - claims vehemently denied by the city's Muslim leaders.

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- The Southland Times

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