THE man believed to be Britain's first suicide bomber spent much of his life in Blackburn.

Asif Hanif, 21, detonated explosives on his belt in an Israeli bar, killing three innocent people and injuring another 65 on April 30, 2003.

The atrocity in Tel Aviv, committed on behalf of Palestinian terror group Hamas, caused outrage across the world.

Hanif's links to East Lancashire were revealed as the wife, brother and sister of his accomplice went on trial accused of withholding information about terrorism.

Omar Sharif ran from the bar when his belt failed to detonate and 12 days later his body was recovered from the sea half way up the Israeli coast.

Today the Lancashire Council of Mosques (LCM) was stunned that Hanif had lived in Blackburn.

Coun Salim Mulla, of the LCM, said: "I haven't heard of him but I am really shocked and surprised that a fellow Muslim from Blackburn was the first suicide bomber. I can't say any more than that."

Jonathan Laidlaw, prosecuting, told the Old Bailey in London that Hanif's family had lived in England for many years.

When he came over from Pakistan to this country, added Mr Laidlaw, Hanif moved to Blackburn.

But by the time of the bombing he and his family had moved to Hounslow, West London.

Mr Laidlaw told the jury that Hanif met Sharif while they both studied in Syria at a well-respected university.

He added: "There are of course other influences in that part of the world. Support and sympathy for the Palestinians is very strong.

"Groups such as Hamas are no doubt a very visible presence."

On April 10, 2003 Hanif and Sharif, 27, from Derby, flew out of Britain. They were said to have told friends they were going to study in Syria and also talked about going to Iraq.

But after arriving in Damascus they almost immediately travelled around Israel and in and out of Palestinian territories, the court heard.

Mr Laidlaw said Hanif and Sharif met members of Hamas to prepare and train for the attack.

Just 19 days later they left the Gaza Strip through a border point which had been carefully chosen as the guards did not check British citizens as thoroughly as Palestinians, the jury was told.

They were then said to have stayed in a Tel Aviv hotel and checked out the target of their attack - a bar called Mikes Place.

Mr Laidlaw said Hanif and Sharif waited outside the bar for it to become crowded, before finally heading inside at 1am.

He added: "They were presumably waiting the bar to fill up so they could kill and maim as many people as possible."

Hanif detonated his bomb but Sharif's belt malfunctioned, the court heard.

Mr Laidlaw said: "He fled the scene, discarding the bombs nearby. Twelve days later his body was recovered from the sea half way up the Israeli coast."

A post mortem examination found Sharif's death was caused by drowning.

The attack was a first in many ways, said Mr Laidlaw, who added: "In killing three innocent people and injuring many others, Hamas had carried out the first successful suicide bombing missions to have been launched on the Gaza Strip.

"It was also the first time Hamas had used non-Palestinian volunteers.

"Asif Hanif and Omar Sharif had become the first young British Muslims to give up their lives in a suicide bombing

"They of course would not have described what they embarked upon as an act of terrorism.

"They considered themselves martyrs to the cause of Islam and in particular to the Palestinian people and their struggles with the Israelis."

Sharif's wife, Tahira Tabassun, sister Panveen and brother Zahid, all of Derby, deny failing to disclose information about acts of terrorism between March 31 and May 3, 2003.

They are said by Mr Laidlaw to have known about Sharif's plan to carry out the bombing but not helped to prevent it happening by telling the authorities.


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