Global ties examined in London bombings

Police trail possible links to Pakistan and al-Qaida

Blair to propose anti-terror law

July 18, 2005|By Carol J. Williams | Carol J. Williams,LOS ANGELES TIMES

LONDON - As investigators explored possible international links to four British Muslims believed to be behind the July 7 suicide bombings of three subway trains and a double-decker bus, officials prepared to introduce tough legislation today that would make it a crime to incite, foster or glorify terrorism.

Police continued to comb through seven of 10 residences raided in Leeds and Aylesbury during the past week, searching for clues to the methods and motivations behind the blasts that killed at least 55 people, including the four suspected bombers. But the focus of the investigation moved from the former home grounds of the suspects to their reported connections with the global terrorism network directed by al-Qaida.

At least eight people have been arrested in Pakistan in cities visited this year by Shahzad Tanweer, the 22-year-old cricket enthusiast who police say blew up a train near the Aldgate subway station in a coordinated rush-hour attack.

Tanweer, reportedly accompanied by Mohamed Sidique Khan, who is alleged to have bombed the Edgware Road station, visited Islamic schools in Lahore and Faisalabad during a three-month visit that ended in February, British newspapers reported. Pakistani intelligence officials have told journalists in Islamabad that Tanweer met with Osama Nazir, a member of the radical Jaish-e-Mohammed organization, during a 2003 visit to Faisalabad.

At least four of those arrested after the London bombings were rounded up in that city, from which Tanweer's father emigrated in the 1960s. British and Pakistani investigators have also begun examining Tanweer's phone records in their search for links between the bombers and possible instigators in the mountainous border area with Afghanistan.

Al-Qaida mastermind Osama bin Laden has long been suspected of taking refuge in the region.

Reports that Khan, 30, had come under intelligence scrutiny more than a year ago have given rise to speculation that security forces might have missed opportunities to avert the deadliest attack on Britons since World War II. News agencies in the Pakistani capital quoted unidentified intelligence sources as saying that Tanweer and Khan arrived in Karachi together in November and returned to Britain in early February.

Pakistani Information Minister Sheik Rashid and Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao said in Islamabad that there had been no arrests linked to the London bombings, despite reports from relatives of at least eight men detained by police Friday and Saturday.

An Egyptian who recently completed a doctorate in chemistry at Leeds University, home of three of the suspected bombers, remained in custody in Cairo. The Egyptian Interior Ministry said it has no evidence tying Magdy el-Nashar, 33, to the London bombings but held him for British interrogators who arrived Saturday.

El-Nashar rented the Leeds apartment where police found traces of explosives of the type used in London, as well as in other al-Qaida-linked blasts. Neighbors and friends of the Egyptian who had lived in Leeds for five years before going to Cairo in late June said he frequented the mosque where the three local suspects prayed.

Hundreds of police officers spent the weekend poring over witness reports in response to investigators' appeals for information about the last 90 minutes of the fourth suspected bomber, Hasib Hussain, 18. His remains were found in the wreckage of the No. 30 bus.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Tony Blair planned to propose legislation to deter the spread of radical Islam. The anti-terrorism laws would make it a crime to take part in terrorism training in Britain or abroad.

The measures would criminalize extremist preaching as incitement to violence, and anyone glorifying suicide bombers as "martyrs" could be charged with glorifying terrorism. Home Secretary Charles Clarke was to introduce the drafts in Parliament today, and Blair will meet with opposition party leaders.

Britain's largest Sunni Muslim group issued a religious edict yesterday condemning the London bombings as the work of a "perverted ideology." The Sunni Council denounced the bombings as anti-Islamic and said the Muslim holy book, the Quran, forbids suicide attacks.

Police said last night that six men were arrested in Leeds under Britain's anti-terrorism act, but later said they were arrested on immigration offenses and that there is no connection to the London bombings.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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