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Militant Islam Monitor > Articles > Police arrest Muslims in UK and Italy in terror sweep - Two University of London students held in attack investigation

Police arrest Muslims in UK and Italy in terror sweep - Two University of London students held in attack investigation

Two Al Qaeda chiefs sought - Mustapha Nasser and Mohammed Al Garbouzi charged with masterminding attacks
July 10, 2005

Police arrest dozens of Muslims in London


Dozens of Muslims of Asiatic and African origin have been arrested in London on suspicion of being linked to Thursday's subway and bus blasts which killed nearly 50 people, the London-based pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat has reported.

Police also raided the homes and arrested two students Britain-born brothers whose parents had immigrated from Mauritania for suspected involvement in the terror attacks, Army Radio quoted Al-Hayat.


Students nabbed, al-Qaeda chiefs hunted

Reports say search for Mohammed al-Gerbouzi, who has also been linked to terrorist attacks in Madrid and Casablanca; two university students arrested on suspicion of working with terrorists.

By Guy Benyovits

LONDON - British security personnel have tightened Saturday their dragnet of suspects involved in the London terror attack that occurred two days before.

Among the first targets of the ongoing investigation is the Muslim and Asian populations of the city.

The London-based, Arabic-language newspaper "Al-Hayat" reported that two Asian brothers, students at the University of London, were arrested on suspicion that they took part in the attack. Counter-terrorism forces raided their homes and conducted a search of the premises.

But the two college students were not the only ones arrested. Dozens of Muslims, many of them British citizens, were taken into custody in the last two days and interrogated.

At the same time, London police have called upon the public to keep an eye out for suspicious activity.

But all this is just a fishing expedition.

Going after the sharks

The real hunt is being conducted for two suspected al-Qaeda terrorists believed to be involved in the chain of bombings that hit the city.

The British newspapers have mentioned two names.

The first is Mustafa Nasser, a 49-year-old Syrian who lived in London from 1995-1998 and knows the city well. The other is Mohammed al-Gerbouzi, a Moroccan and long-term al-Qaeda activist who lived in London for 10 years and is a described as "the spiritual leader of the mujahiddin in Britain."

The British newspaper "The Independent" reported that Scotland Yard and MI5 called upon European intelligence agencies to help catch al-Gerbouzi, who is already associated with the Madrid and Casablanca attacks.

A spokeswoman for Europol, the European police information exchange agency, refused to confirm or deny a request has been made, adding merely: "We are providing information and intelligence to the UK authorities."

Links to Madrid bombings

The Moroccan government has made several attempts to have 45-year-old al-Gerbouzi, who they claim is the head of an organization called the Group of Islamic Combatants, sent back to Morocco. Evidence later presented before a Moroccan court claimed he helped the Casablanca bombers obtain false passports and money.

The British government has denied the Moroccan request because there is no extradition treaty between the two countries. The Home Office has also said the Moroccan authorities failed to produce adequate evidence to justify an arrest.

Morocco has presented further evidence to Scotland Yard. But al-Gerbouzi had, by then, disappeared from his council flat in Kilburn, northwest London. He said he had been questioned by MI5 agents but denied any connections with terrorism.

In March last year, Spanish detectives investigating the bombing of commuter trains that killed 191 people, said that one of the suspects, Moroccan called Jamal Zougham, 31, made telephone calls to a landline and mobile telephone line in London belonging to al-Gerbouzi.

Speaking to Al Jazeera television Saturday, al-Gerbouzi declared his innocence and denied that he was on the run.

"I affirm that I am not in hiding or on the run and the British police are not looking for me because they know where I live and my address," he told the Arabic-language station.

He denied a connection to the Madrid train bombings, noting "that there is no official accusation against me from Spanish authorities about any event."

Small, coordinated blasts

Scotland Yard Commission Sir Ian Blair said that the attacks in London had "all the hallmarks of al-Qaeda." Police noted that the three subway bombs blew up within seconds of each other, but aside from that, the authorities said they lacked claer indications of who was responsible.

The key factor the police and MI5 have to ascertain is whether the bombers were "home-grown" or foreigners. The bombs used, all under 10 lbs, were likely to have been carried in rucksacks.

Explosives expert Andy Oppenheimer, of Jane's Information Group, said: "These could have been home-made devices, they would not have been difficult to make."...


Police Investigating London bomb attacks arrest 3

Police Investigating London Bomb Attacks Arrest 3 (Update2)

July 10 (Bloomberg) -- Three men were arrested earlier today at London's Heathrow Airport under anti-terrorism legislation, police investigating last week's bomb explosions said.

They were the first arrests since explosions tore through three subway trains and a bus on July 7, killing about 50 people in the deadliest attack on London since World War II.

"It would be inappropriate and pure speculation to draw any direct linkage to the attacks in London," Deputy Assistant Commissioner Brian Paddick told a news conference. Paddick declined to provide any other information, saying that people are arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act "every week."

Police said 49 bodies have been removed to the mortuary from the sites of the bomb blasts and more may still be trapped in wreckage. Three of the four bombs went off within a 50-second period and more than 700 people were injured in the attacks which have been claimed by groups linked to al-Qaeda.

"As far as the search teams are concerned, there may well be more at Russell Square but they don't think there are going to be more at the other sites," said Andy Trotter, deputy chief constable of the British Transport Police, referring to one of the subway stations affected.

Police pledged the capital will be "open for business" as usual tomorrow. There will be transport delays and some underground train stations near the bombing sites will remain shut.

`Open for Business'

"The majority of the rest of the system is open," Trotter said. On Monday, London will be "open for business," he added.

Police have received over 100 false alarm calls since the bombings and Londoners are now "much more alert" about unattended baggage left in public places, Trotter added.

"You will see a lot more officers in uniform on the streets," he said.

Police said the investigation into the identity of the bombers continues with more than 1,700 phone calls received from the public so far.

As police stepped up their hunt for the bombers, John Stevens, the former head of the city's police force, said the culprits are "almost certainly British-born" and probably well educated.

"The London bombers will not fit the caricature al-Qaeda fanatic from some backward village in Algeria," Stevens wrote in the News of the World. "They will be apparently ordinary British citizens, young men conservatively and cleanly dressed and probably with some higher education."

Training Camps

Stevens, who was the U.K.'s most senior policeman until he retired in February, wrote in the London-based newspaper that 3,000 Britons are thought to have passed through al-Qaeda training camps, and that up to 200 are "willing and able to slaughter."

Al-Qaeda is recruiting affluent, middle class Muslims from British universities, the Sunday Times reported today, citing a leaked government document from last year. The recruits, who don't have criminal backgrounds, are often loners who are approached through university clubs, the newspaper said.

At least eight terror attacks on the British mainland have been foiled in the last five years, according to Stevens, who now sits in the House of Lords, the upper, unelected chamber of Parliament.

Stevens "did know what's happening," Home Secretary Charles Clarke told the British Broadcasting Corp. today in response. "There were attacks that were thwarted," Clarke said. He confirmed there were British citizens whom the security services suspected of being terrorists, refusing to comment on numbers.

"Our fear is of more attacks," Clarke said. "That's why the number one priority is tracking down the perpetrators."


Italy Arrests 142 in Anti-Terror Sweep

By NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press Write

rSat Jul 9,12:31

Police said Saturday they had arrested 142 people in a two-day anti-terrorism security sweep around Milan prompted by the bombings two days earlier in London.

Some 2,000 carabinieri fanned out across the Lombardy region, stepping up patrols around train stations, subways, commercial centers and other sensitive sites, the regional commander of the paramilitary police, Gen. Antonio Girone, said in a phone interview.

Girone said the operation was focusing on Milan because it had been the major focus of Italian investigations into Islamic terrorism and because it "could be a major risk of possible attacks." He said the measures were designed to make people "feel calmer after the London attacks."

Of those arrested, 84 were immigrants and authorities issued 52 expulsion orders, he said. Most of those arrested were accused on drug, petty theft or immigration-related charges, he said.

The operation was one of the most visible signs of stepped up security measures around Italy following Thursday's attacks in London and threats that Italy might be targeted as well for its support of the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Interior Ministry said it was stepping up police and intelligence controls around the country, and in particular around sites most at risk of terrorist attack.

British installations in Italy were the top priorities. But some 13,246 sites around the country including U.S. and NATO bases, telecommunications centers, public utilities and the Turin 2006 Winter Olympics site also were under special surveillance and had been since the beginning of the year, the ministry said.

The ministry also said it was looking into possible new emergency legislation to deal with the terrorist risk. It didn't elaborate.

The new measures came after a group calling itself "The Secret Organization of al-Qaida in Europe" said the bombings were punishment for British involvement in the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and said Italy and Denmark would be attacked for their support of the U.S.-led coalitions in both countries, too.

Premier Silvio Berlusconi said Friday that Italy would begin withdrawing 300 troops from Italy's 3,000-strong contingent in Iraq, but denied the withdrawal was linked to any terrorist threats against Italy. He had previously said he hoped to begin withdrawing troops by September, though officials later pushed the date back to early 2006.

Berlusconi is a staunch ally of President Bush and sent about 3,000 troops to Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein to help rebuild the country. Italy also has about 910 troops in Afghanistan.

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