Issue Date: Friday, July 15, 2005
Blair seeks new laws to rein in militant clerics - calls radical Islam "an extreme and evil ideology "
July 14, 2005
MIM: British MP Tony Blair is now doing what critics of the UK's lax terror laws said he should have done years ago. Britains tolerance of Islamists led counter terrorism experts to recommend that it be regarded as a country which harbors terrorists. The one thing that the British and Blair must realise is that the Muslim leaders whom they are appealing to are themselves linked to terrorism . The Muslim Council of Britain has director links to Al Qaeda and the Muslim Association of Britain is directly linked to Hamas. Besides the fact that these Muslim groups are a dangerous fifth column, Blair shouid recall that it was last year when they made a big publicity stunt out of writing an open letter to mosques telling them to report any 'extremism' (while the ones who signed it were involved in preaching the same thing themselves).
Blair seeks new laws to rein in militant clerics
Makes appeal to Parliament, Muslim leaders
By Charles M. Sennott and Kevin Cullen, Globe Staff | July 14, 2005
LONDON -- As British police launched fresh raids yesterday to hunt for a suspected mastermind of last week's attacks, Prime Minister Tony Blair called for tougher laws to rein in militant clerics who incite hatred and asked moderate Muslim leaders to confront the "evil ideology" behind the bombings.
Blair appealed to law-enforcement officers and immigration judges, as well as the Muslim community, to root out pockets of extremism and militancy among Britain's 2 million Muslims. He said consultations would begin in the coming weeks over new anti-terrorism legislation and tougher immigration laws aimed at identifying Islamic militant clerics and others to prevent them from being granted visas and asylum cases in Britain.
"This is not an isolated criminal act we are dealing with," Blair told Parliament. "It is an extreme and evil ideology whose roots lie in a perverted and poisonous misinterpretation of the religion of Islam."
One day after police suggested that four bombers killed themselves during the blasts in the Underground and aboard a double-decker bus, investigators intensified their effort to find out who may have organized the attacks and recruited four British citizens, at least three of Pakistani descent, who are suspected of carrying them out. Investigators fear the attacks, which killed at least 52 people, were the first suicide bombings in Western Europe.
Last night, counterterrorism police were carrying out raids on a residence in Aylesbury, some 40 miles northwest of London, in what police described as an operation connected to the bombing investigation. There were no immediate reports of arrests.
Earlier in the day, police revealed they were conducting a sweeping manhunt for a fifth suspect who they believe is directly connected to the attacks, possibly an organizer of the cell.
In other developments, police say they now believe all four of the bombers traveled together in one rented car from Leeds to Luton, just north of London. On Tuesday, authorities had said it appeared that three of the suspected attackers had taken a train to Luton. The police seized the rental car and reportedly obtained an unknown amount of explosives.
After arriving in Luton, police say, the four men headed by train for the King's Cross station and entered the labyrinth of Underground lines that connect at the terminus. They were seen on closed-circuit television cameras carrying backpacks, which investigators believe held approximately 10 pounds each of commercial explosives.
They then separated, authorities believe, and three of them boarded trains heading south, west, and east. A fourth bomber may have sought to head north on the Northern Line of the Underground but faced unexpected delays. That bomber, police are theorizing, boarded the double-decker bus. Witnesses said that a young man boarded the bus, acted agitated, and kept checking on the contents of a bag at his feet.
Because the bombs were constructed with commercial explosives -- which are high-grade materials typically made for military use or in mining activities -- it is likely that evidence from the crime scene will allow investigators to trace their investigation back to the source of the explosives.
For years, Islamic militant clerics from Egypt, Morocco, Syria, and Saudi Arabia have openly preached "holy war" against the West at mosques in London and in other British cities. They have become what investigators and counterterrorism specialists refer to as "incubators" for militancy,recruiting young, impressionable Muslims.
Many counterterrorism specialists and moderate Muslim leaders say Blair's government has recognized the threat too late.
Anas al Tikriti, a member of the British Muslim Association who is from Leeds, said in an interview this week that the British government has ignored the efforts of extremist clerics to preach a warped, hateful interpretation of Islamic texts to congregations. In particular, he cited the Finsbury Park mosque in London, where for at least two years cleric Abu Hamza al Masri openly preached a call to "jihad" before being arrested last year on a US warrant.
Tikriti, who is of Iraqi descent and was a voice in the resistance to the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, said the British government has "failed in finding the balance" between its tradition of civil liberties -- allowing Muslims to express frustration with Israeli policies and the ongoing US and British presence in Iraq -- and the expressions of fringe militants whose rhetoric has "done so much to tarnish the image of Islam."
Responding to such criticism, Blair said in Parliament: "We will look urgently at how we strengthen the procedures to exclude people from entering the UK who may incite hatred or act contrary to the public good and at how we deport such people if they come here more easily."
Muslims in Leeds insist that none of the imams in local mosques are radical.
"The community is in shock," said Abid Hussain, the vice chairman of the Leeds Islamic Center. "People can't believe this happened. Especially here."
Sennott reported from London; Cullen from Leeds.
|In silence, Pak link screams|
London, July 14: The finger is pointing more and more towards a Pakistan connection as Britain today observed a two-minute period of silence at noon, a week after the London bombings.
Three of the four London bombers have been identified as Pakistani-born British citizens and there is growing evidence one or more of them visited Pakistan over the past year or so.
Foreign secretary Jack Straw expressed concern about the activities of madarsas in Pakistan, which vindicates a long-standing Indian complaint, though he absolved President Pervez Musharraf of any responsibility.
"We are concerned about what goes on in some, though not all, of the madarsas in Pakistan. But so, too, is President Musharraf and many, many people in the Pakistan political parties and in the Pakistan government," he said.
What policies Britain now adopts on travel to Pakistan by impressionable British Pakistani youths remain to be seen.
Yesterday, family members of Shehzad Tanweer, one of the three identified bombers, said he had visited Pakistan recently and a Pakistani intelligence official was quoted as saying he had attended a madarsa.
It is now known that Mohammed Sadique Khan, another of the three who has left behind a Gujarati wife of Indian origin, visited Pakistan on several occasions in recent years, apparently to see relatives. Police will now want to know if he was recruited by a terror group in Pakistan.
Hasib Mir Hussain, the third and the youngest at 19, is believed to have visited India from Britain last year.
A Pakistani intelligence official said in Islamabad Britain had requested information about Tanweer and Hussain. Pakistan denied knowledge of any of the suspects having visited the country.
The fourth bomber is not a British Pakistani but Lindsey Germail, a British national of Jamaican origin. One of the cars left by the bombers at Luton railway station has been traced to the house Germail rented 20 miles away in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, where he lived with his wife, a woman seen in full Islamic dress, and their baby. Germail's badly mangled body was found on a train between Russell Square and King's Cross.
Detectives are hunting for a British-born suspect of Pakistani origin believed to have masterminded the plot. He is thought to have arrived in Britain last month and left the country just days before the attacks. The man in his 30s is reported to have had previous involvement in terrorist operations and may have links with al Qaida followers in America. There is a suggestion he met the four bombers at Luton but then disappeared.
Police are also searching for an Egyptian chemistry student who recently went missing from his home in Leeds.