A London-based fundamentalist Islamic cleric with known ties to Osama bin Laden said al-Qaeda and various other fundamentalist Muslim groups around the world are actively planning to use the Internet as a weapon in their "defensive" jihad, or holy war, against the West.

Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad, founder of the London-based group Jama'at Al-Muhajirun and the spokesman for Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders told Computerworld that all types of technology, including the Internet, are being studied for use in the global jihad against the West.

"In a matter of time you will see attacks on the stock market," Bakri said, referring specifically to the markets in New York, London and Tokyo.

His comments represent the first time that a high-profile radical Muslim cleric with known links to bin Laden has spoken publicly about the use of cyber-tactics for offensive purposes.

While his group, Jama'at Al-Muhajirun, is primarily focused on supporting the political goals of Al-Qaeda and other radical Islamic groups, Bakri said the military wings of these groups are also using and studying the Internet for their own operations.

"That is what al-Qaeda is skillful with," said Bakri. "I would not be surprised if tomorrow I hear of a big economic collapse because of somebody attacking the main technical systems in big companies," he said, referring to an ongoing threat of an attack.

"There are millions of Muslims around the world involved in hacking the Pentagon and Israeli government sites," said Bakri. "The struggle will continue," he said, referring to the millions of young bin Laden supporters who are now studying computer science as a way to support the cause.

"I believe that Osama bin Laden has earned his leadership and most Muslim students who are graduating in computer science and computer programming and IT technology are supporting Osama bin Laden," Bakri said.

"I would advise those who doubt al-Qaeda's interest in cyber-weapons to take Osama bin Laden very seriously," he said.