Four suspects in failed London transit attacks plead not guilty

August 09, 2005|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

LONDON - Four top suspects in the attempted attacks on the London transport system July 21, including a previously unidentified man linked to a knapsack bomb found in a park, pleaded not guilty yesterday in an appearance at a high-security court.

Also appearing in court was an alleged al-Qaida operative deported a day earlier from Zambia, where he had been questioned by British counter-terror agents about a previous spate of bombings. Those attacks, on July 7, killed 56 people, including four suspected bombers.

But British authorities did not pursue charges in that case yesterday against the suspect, Haroon Rachid Aswat, a Briton of Indian descent. They deferred instead to a U.S. extradition request based on allegations that Aswat, 30, conspired to set up a terrorist training camp in Oregon five years ago.

The proceedings suggested that British investigators no longer regard Aswat as a potential suspect in the July 7 case. The interest in him was based largely on suspected phone contact between at least one of the dead bombers and a phone associated with Aswat. However, officials had cautioned that it was not clear whether Aswat had been using the phone, or whether the calls were related to the plot.

As police helicopters circled above, the top-security courtroom at Belmarsh Prison became the stage for the first appearance by three suspects, all East African refugees or immigrants, whose faces became internationally known during a manhunt last month. Police say security cameras filmed the three, whose knapsack bombs failed to fully detonate.

A fourth suspect caught on video remains in custody in Rome, where he had fled by train and was found hiding at his brother's apartment.

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