Four Britons suspected in bombings

Britain arrests 5th person in 1st suicide attack there

3 allegedly of Pakistani origin

Police carry out raids in Leeds, two other cities

July 13, 2005|By Todd Richissin | Todd Richissin,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

LONDON - Police identified four British nationals yesterday as suspects in the bombings of London's transit system last week and indicated that the men probably blew themselves up with their victims, marking the first suicide attacks on British soil. A fifth person, a relative of one of the suspects, was arrested.

All of the suspects are believed to be between the ages of 19 and 30, and are from the city of Leeds in northern England.

The British Broadcasting Corp. and several British newspapers reported that at least three of the suspected bombers were Muslims of Pakistani background.

If police theories hold true, the newest face of violence here is that of British men willing to die in the course of killing others. The likelihood that they were suicide bombers adds a new element to the risks to this part of the world.

Forensic evidence indicates that at least one of the men accused of bombing the subways died in the attacks Thursday, British authorities said. Police said they recovered documents from the bomb sites which indicate that all four were suicide bombers.

Police were investigating whether the men, who were not immediately identified, had outside help with the attacks, which killed 52 people and injured more than 700.

"We are trying to establish their movements in the run-up to last week's attack, and specifically to establish whether they all died in the explosions," said Peter Clarke, head of Scotland Yard's anti-terrorism unit.

After days in which police had little to say publicly about possible breaks in the investigation, yesterday's developments moved quickly, beginning with dawn raids at six houses.

The trail took them to several neighborhoods in and near Leeds and two other cities. In one instance, they used a "controlled" explosion to break down the door of a suspect.

Hundreds of people were evacuated from nearby houses and streets for fear that bomb-making materials might explode.

Early yesterday, police searched the West Yorkshire house of 22-year-old Shehzad Tanweer, a Briton of Pakistani descent. Neighbors said they thought he was a university student and described him as an average young man who played soccer and cricket. His family owns several small businesses. Friends said he had been listed as missing since Thursday.

At least one of the houses that police raided was in Leeds' Bromley neighborhood. No one was there, police said, and investigators were searching for evidence of explosives and for computers that could provide further clues.

Later, police linked their discovery of a car containing explosives parked at Luton rail station, just north of London, to the transit system attacks. The station was evacuated and closed, and bomb experts set off several controlled explosions to eliminate the threat.

A second car also believed to be linked to the attacks was found at Leighton Buzzard, 10 miles west of Luton.

Clarke said a review of tapes from closed-circuit television showed four of the suspects arriving at the King's Cross subway station Thursday morning. The four men were spotted together and were carrying rucksacks in the station 20 minutes before the explosions, he said.

Before yesterday, police had released little information indicating progress in identifying the attackers. However, Clarke said yesterday that a tip soon after the explosions cast suspicion on the Leeds men.

Shortly after the attacks, the family of one of the suspected bombers called police to report him missing. Documents belonging to the man were found in the wreckage of the No. 30 bus, which blew up near London's Travistock Square.

Never in memory has there been a suicide bombing of such scale in Western Europe, and the attack is likely to be particularly chilling to Londoners being urged by police to keep an eye out for packages or bags left alone. With a suicide bomber, that will not work.

"A suicide attack would be for me most worrisome," said Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism analyst at the RAND Corp. in Washington. "They're more difficult to prevent. It's not a matter of being alert for suspicious packages. You've got the ultimate human smart bomb."

The bus explosion occurred nearly an hour after three synchronized blasts aboard three subway trains, one between King's Cross and Russell Square on the deep-tunnel Piccadilly Line, and at two locations on the shallower Circle Line, the first between Liverpool Street and Aldgate stations and the second at Edgware Road.

The Leeds area, about 185 miles north of London in Yorkshire, has a population of about 715,000 people, about 15 percent of them Muslims. Many belong to a tight-knit Pakistani community, founded largely by immigrants from Murpir, a city south of Pakistan's capital, Islamabad. Several neighborhoods in the city have substantial Arab populations from Syria and Saudi Arabia.

People in Leeds expressed shock yesterday at the raids.

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