Shahzad Tanweer: 'I cannot begin to explain this. He was proud to be British'

By Ian Herbert and Arifa Akbar
Published: 14 July 2005

Shahzad Tanweer, a bright sports science graduate, seemed to have his life planned. He was "proud to be British" according to his uncle, Bashir Ahmad, and planned a career in sport. Yet the youngster's life went unthinkably wrong. The promising young man died in a suicide attack on the London Underground, along with the seven commuters he murdered at Aldgate last week. He was 22.

His mother, Parveen, was in a safe house last night, along with the rest of the family, where she has been "crying uncontrollably" since she was given the news about her son.

He attended Wortley High School and excelled at sport as well as his lessons. Though reports have focused on his interest in cricket, his best sport was long jump. Trophies lining the family home in Colwyn Road, Beeston, attest to that. He left school to study sports science at Leeds Metropolitan University. His father, Mumtaz, was delighted his son had not gone off the rails, according to Mr Ahmad. "He was very pleased because at an age when he could have been going down to the pub, he was regularly visiting the mosque and studying," said Mr Ahmad.

Nothing appeared untoward when, last December, he left Beeston for a Pakistani Islamic School, near Lahore. His intention was to stay for nine months and learn to recite the Koran by heart. "He went purely to study religion and learn about the Koran," said Mr Ahmad.

He stayed with an uncle and is not believed to have travelled very far. After three months, he returned to England to resume life in Leeds, choosing to work part time at his father's chip shop, the South Leeds Fisheries on Tempest Road near his home. He came back early because he didn't like "the heat, the poverty and the attitude the Pakistanis had towards people from England'', according to Mr Ahmad. He denied his nephew had travelled to Afghanistan or had taken part in training camps while he was in Pakistan. "There is no way. I have seen his passport," he said.

The details of his life certainly do not point to militancy. Born on 15 December, 1982, at St Luke's Maternity Hospital in Bradford, he spent much of his life as any second generation Muslim. He spoke both Punjabi and English. Mumtaz Tanweer, 56, who was born in Pakistan and came to Britain at the age of two, taught his son the values of working to better himself in Britain. He started an engine reconditioning business in Leeds after leaving school, then went on to run a string of successful slaughterhouse businesses. He bought the local fish and chip shop seven months ago.

The Tanweers' neighbour told how the man dressed in a Western way, often in designer tracksuits and trainers. "He didn't have a beard, he wore sports tops, tracksuit bottoms and trainers -like anybody else really," said the neighbour. But on Fridays, for prayers at the mosque which he attended without fail, he would put on the Muslim dress, including a hat.

A friend of Tanweer's, who would not disclose his name, said that he attended the radical Stratford Street mosque in Beeston where he met the other bombers. The three wore western clothing for prayers.

A friend who would not be named said the three bombers - Khan Tanweer and Hussain - grew up together and "often talked about their anger at their Muslim brothers and sisters being unfairly targeted in Iraq by the US". In some ways, last week was like any other for Tanweer. Days before leaving for London he played cricket as usual. Only one thing was different: He had had dyed his hair and eyebrows light brown. "It struck me as very odd at the time but, with hindsight, it seems obvious he had done it as a disguise," said the friend. "I had known him for years and I had never seen him change his appearance before, he said.

Bashir Ahmad said he was deeply puzzled. "There is no explanation I can come to. He had everything to live for. His parents were loving and supportive. They had no financial worries. He was intelligent. He went to university. His plan was to go into sports," said the uncle, who owns a kebab shop on Tempest Street. "The family is shattered. This is a terrible thing. It wasn't him. It must have been forces behind him."

Sajaad Hussain, a neighbour in Colwyn Road, said: "He's a very nice lad, a very nice lad.We were brought up together on the same street. Another friend, Azzy Mohammed, 21, added: "He's the kind of person who gets along with anyone. His sense of humour is very good. He's a sweet lad. "We were brought up together."


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