Somali arrested in 2nd attacks in London

Raids in Birmingham

3 other suspects sought

July 28, 2005|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

LONDON - British police arrested a Somali yesterday who is believed to be one of the bombers behind London's second wave of attacks last week, the biggest breakthrough yet in its investigation of the bombings that have shaken this city.

Determined to take the man alive, police seized Yasin Hassan Omar, a 24-year-old British resident, in a pre-dawn raid on a brick house in Birmingham, and subdued him with a Taser stun gun when he resisted.

New evidence also emerged suggesting that more attacks could have been planned. A U.S. law enforcement official said British authorities investigating the July 7 bombings had found several devices, assembled as bombs, in the trunk of a car that some of the bombers drove to the train station at Luton that morning before heading to London.

A senior European intelligence official confirmed that finished bombs and bomb components were found in the car. The existence of the devices could indicate that the attackers were not on suicide missions, officials said.

In arresting Omar, dozens of police and army bomb disposal experts, some in body armor, raided the ethnically mixed neighborhood in Britain's second-largest city, evacuating about 100 homes on the street where Omar was staying.

According to witnesses, police called, "Hassan, Hassan," before storming the house.

"This, of course, is an important development in the investigation," Peter Clarke, the head of counterterrorism for the Metropolitan Police said yesterday in announcing the arrest. At a news conference with Spain's prime minister, Jose Luis Zapatero, Prime Minister Tony Blair said: "We are greatly heartened by the operations today."

Clarke released a new photograph of one of the four suspects in the abortive attacks, standing on a public bus. He said the man had tried to detonate a bomb on a train near the Shepherd's Bush subway station.

The suspect is believed to have taken off and thrown away a dark blue soccer shirt after the attempted strikes, in which the bombs failed to detonate properly. Wearing a white sleeveless undershirt, he then apparently jumped on a bus that he rode to the end of the line, where the trail ran cold, Clarke said.

But in the Shepherds Bush area of London, three residents said they recognized the man from the photo shown during Clarke's televised presentation. Though none of them knew his name, they said they believed he was East African.

"I'm 110 percent sure it's him," said Jose Monterio, 32, a coffee shop owner. Anna Christina Fernanez 29, another neighbor, said, "Yes, he's the man. Now he has a bit more of a beard."

Throughout the day, British television showed chilling images from a report by ABC News of bombs that police apparently found in the car discovered at Luton station five days after the first attacks. Police conducted nine controlled explosions of devices left in the car.

One image showed four bombs, three of them white objects that looked like wheels of Camembert cheese. Another was described as an X-ray image of a device that resembled a milk bottle, studded with nails and connected to an explosive charge. A third resembled a mortar shell, also studded with nails and wrapped in plastic.

There were also previously unseen images of the devastation at two of the bombed subway stations. Scotland Yard was so distressed by the ABC images that it sent out a strongly worded appeal to news organizations to suppress them.

Calling them "unauthorized images related to the investigation into, and the crime scenes from, the London bombings of July 7th from a third party," it said: "We are requesting in the strongest possible terms that media organizations do not publish these images or any similarly unauthorized images because they may prejudice both the ongoing investigation and any future prosecutions."

Despite the breakthrough with the arrest of Omar, Clarke disclosed that police still don't know the identity of two of the bombers, appealing again to the British people for help.

"I must emphasize until these men are arrested, they remain a threat," Clarke said. Thousands of police have joined in what police are describing as the biggest investigation in British history, with raids and arrests around the country.

After his arrest, Omar, now a legal resident who came here when he was 11, was taken immediately to a high security police station in London for questioning. Three other men were arrested in a second house in Birmingham and are being held at a nearby police station.

In addition to the two unidentified bombing suspects, police are searching for Muktar Said Ibrahim, a 27-year-old Eritrean-born British citizen, who they say is a would-be bomber in last week's abortive attacks.

The neighborhood in Birmingham where Omar was arrested is ethnically diverse and close-knit, residents say. But no one seemed to know Omar, and only one neighbor reported even a chance encounter with him or those who apparently lived with him.

"A couple of days ago, I saw four males coming out," said Naseed Riasat, 20.

There has been an influx of Somalis into Birmingham in recent years, many from Denmark and the Netherlands. Muslim leaders said the Somali community is particularly cohesive, with its own stores and restaurants, and a religious fervor that outshines other Muslim groups.

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