London - A British prison officer with more than 20 years service has been sacked for making an insulting remark about terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.

Prison bosses told Colin Rose, 53, they had no option but to fire him because three Muslim visitors to Blundeston Prison in eastern England could have heard his "insensitive" comment, an employment tribunal was told this week.

According to the Daily Telegraph, two months after the September 11 attacks on the United States - that were blamed on bin Laden's al-Qaeda terror network - Rose threw some keys into a metal chute at the prison gatehouse. After someone commented on how hard he had thrown them, Rose said: "There's a photo of Osama bin Laden there".

A colleague then told Rose to be quiet as two Asian women wearing headscarves and an Asian man were at the window of the gatehouse.

Rose, who is claiming unfair dismissal after a 21-year unblemished record in the Prison Service, was sacked in May last year after a six-month internal investigation.

The hearing continues. - Sapa-AFP