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London faces lockdown in bid to thwart third wave of terror attacks- but when will Finsbury Park mosque finally be closed ?

Italy fears it will be the next target
July 31, 2005

MIM: Once again - the Finsbury Park mosque is being cited as having been the planning headquarters and meeting place for the terrorist posing the present threat as it was for the failed bombers .

The government closed Finsbury Park mosque for a time and then reopened it several months ago under new terrorist managment. As thousands of sharpshooters and police turn London into a city under siege one must ask how much longer the Muslims at the Finsbury Park mosque will be allowed access to their terror base to carry on their business as usual.

MIM: All four failed bombers have been nabbed but information gleaned points to new attacks in the offing.

August 01, 2005

London faces lockdown to thwart third terror strike
By Daniel McGrory and Sean O'Neill

THOUSANDS of police marksmen will be on London's streets and rooftops again today after warnings that another team of suicide bombers is plotting a third attack on the capital.

The new group is believed to be made up of British Muslims who were understood to be close to staging an attack on the Underground network last week. According to security sources the men are thought to be of Pakistani origin but born and brought up in this country. They have links with the Leeds-based terrorist cell that staged the July 7 attacks, in which 52 innocent people died.

Even with the transport system so heavily guarded, police and intelligence sources believe that the bombers are intent on once more attacking London's bus and Underground network. Another multiple suicide strike is also intended to demonstrate how the network can call on more recruits. The men are said to have access to explosives.

US security sources said yesterday that this third group of would-be bombers met at Finsbury Park mosque in North London, where some of the July 7 terrorists are also known to have stayed. There are reports that this team originally planned to strike last Thursday, which is why more than 6,000 police, half of them armed, were present at Underground stations. Scotland Yard said at the time that this exercise, the biggest since the Second World War, was to test their resources and reassure a nervous public.

As commuters return to work today police chiefs say that the arrest of five suspected bombers in house raids in Birmingham, London and Rome has not ended this threat. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke, head of the anti-terrorist branch, said: "The threat remains and is very real."

There is concern among ministers and police at how long officers can continue such an intensive operation to "lock down" London while a threat remains. Although reinforcements have been brought in and leave has been cancelled, resources are stretched to keep up the guard on the capital, which is costing 500,000 a day. Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, admitted that his officers were "very, very tired".

While the priority is to thwart another strike, police are still investigating links between the attacks on July 7 and the botched operation a fortnight later. They are also hunting for what officers describe as "key logistical players" behind the attacks.

Seven more people six men and a woman were arrested in raids in Brighton yesterday, bringing the number of people under arrest in Britain to 18. A Scotland Yard spokesman said: "This is a further indication of the fact this is a fast-moving investigation and we continue to progress. We are searching for other people in connection with this ongoing inquiry.

"There were quite a few other people involved in the incidents of the 7th and the 21st. It's extremely likely there will be other people involved in harbouring, financing and making the devices."

The major link between the two sets of bombers is that the alleged leaders of both groups attended Finsbury Park mosque. Experts are studying similarities between the bombs used on July 7 and 21.

Anti-terrorism officers are still questioning four of the failed bombers at Paddington Green police station while a fifth member of the team is being interrogated in Rome.

Hussain Osman, who tried to blow up a Tube train at Shepherds Bush, told Italian police that the devices were only meant to scare passengers, not injure them. Scotland Yard dismissed that claim as "nonsense".

The devices, hidden in rucksacks, were studded with razor sharp nails and only failed to explode because of a clumsy mistake by the bombmaker. Sir Ian Blair said that the bombs were designed to kill and that London had a lucky escape.

Ethiopian-born Hussain, 27, who has a British passport, claimed that the plot was orchestrated by another of those arrested on Friday, Muktar Said-Ibrahim. Hussain said that he had been recruited in an underground gym in Notting Hill.

Immigration officials are trying to find out how he managed to slip out of Waterloo station on a Eurostar train to Paris and make way to Italy where he met his brother, who lives in Rome. Officials want to know why Hussain, who says his real name is Hamdi Isaac and who has Italian citizenship, came to Britain posing as a Somali asylum-seeker in 1996.

There were reports last night that Muktar Said-Ibrahim, the suspected ringleader of the July 21 plot, was seen in Rome several weeks before the failed attacks. A mother and daughter living downstairs from the suburban flat where Hussain Osman was arrested on Friday, said that they had recognised Said-Ibrahim from footage of his arrest in London.

Two of Hussain's brothers who live in Italy are also being held. One is accused of sheltering him; the second was picked up yesterday in the northern town of Brescia.

Italian police say they are using Hussain's phone records to unpick the international network that has been helping him. Alfredo Mantovano, an Interior Ministry official, said that the network "confirms the presence in our country of autonomous Islamic cells . . . which could represent a concrete threat." Italy is worried that it is the next target for Islamic terrorists.


Questions raised by the attacks and arrests


Key points
Police investigating connection between 7/7 and 7/21 bombings
Experts believe 7/21 attempted bombings co-ordinated by a 'mastermind'
Reports claim as many as 300 potential suicide bombers could be in UK

Key quote
"Those who spotted and recruited [the bombers] came from different places (Leeds and London), but the explosives are likely to have been prepared by a single individual and it could be that a single individual told them to do it. We shouldn't assume that one man was behind both groups, there will have been a team of people, each performing different functions. The money man, for instance, may not even have come into the UK" - Bob Ayers, Chatham House security expert

Story in full DEVELOPMENTS in the hunt for those responsible for planning a second series of bomb attacks in London on 21 July have been rapid.

However, there have been conflicting reports of how the group may or may not have been linked to the 7 July bombers and whether or not they planned the attacks alone - or with the support of a so-called "mastermind".

Here, we answer some of the most frequently-asked questions about the bombings and the police investigation.

Q Was there a link between the bombings of 7 July and those of 21 July?

A Police are still investigating links, but believe that the "striking similarities" between the two attacks - on three underground lines and a bus, on the same day two weeks apart - suggest that there was.

What is unclear is the level of co-ordination between the two. One theory is that neither cell knew of the other but both were run by the same "mastermind".

Official sources say that the explosives used in both attacks were variants of Triacetone Triperoxide (TATP), but, on the other hand, the mixture is widely used by militants.

Bob Ayers, a security expert at Chatham House, said: "There will be commonality between the two groups. As far as total commonality goes, I'm not sure. Those who spotted and recruited these guys came from different places (Leeds and London), but the explosives are likely to have been prepared by a single individual and it could be that a single individual told them to do it. We shouldn't assume that one man was behind both groups, there will have been a team of people, each performing different functions. The money man, for instance, may not even have come into the UK."

Q Were the 21 July bombers working alone or was there a "mastermind" organising them?

A Osman Hussain, the suspect currently held in Italy has reportedly spoken of his group acting alone in retaliation for Muslims being persecuted after the 7 July attacks in an "attention-grabbing" strike.

Experts yesterday dismissed this claim as "ridiculous". It is believed that the bombers were merely footsoldiers and that the real masterminds are still being sought.

Police have said they are continuing to investigate who could have been behind the bombers, in terms of financing them, making the devices and co-ordinating them.

David Capitanchik, a security expert from Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, said: "People don't wake up one morning and decide they want to be a suicide bomber. We know this from past experience and to suggest that they do is ridiculous. They are recruited, organised and trained. And co-ordinated operations like those that have hit London cannot happen overnight, They take weeks or months to plan."

He said the 21 July bombers may be telling the truth when they say they don't know the 7 July bombers, but "these four did not act in isolation. It is one thing to say they didn't know about the other cell but that is different from saying the same person is not behind the same cells."

Haroon Rashid Aswat, who grew up in West Yorkshire, was detained last week in Zambia for his alleged role in the London suicide bombings - as well as setting up a terror camp in the United States. Scotland Yard have played down any suggestions that he is the bombing "mastermind".

Q How many people have now been arrested in connection with the 21 July attacks?

A A further seven suspects (six men and one woman) were taken into custody, during raids in Brighton, East Sussex, yesterday. This brings the running total of those being held to at least 19, among them all the men named as suspected would-be suicide bombers, including one tracked to Rome.

Two other suspects arrested in Rome are related to the bombing suspect. Police stressed again yesterday that they are looking for more people in connection with the attacks.

The four suspected bombers are: Yasin Hassan Omar, a 24-year-old Somali, arrested in Birmingham on Wednesday last week; Muktar Said-Ibrahim and Ramzi Mohammed, held by armed police after a raid on a flat in west London on Friday; and Osman Hussain, arrested in Rome on Friday.

Q Were the July 21 bombers inspired by the war in Iraq?

A Reports in Italian newspapers claim that Osman Hussain said that he and the other three carried out the attacks after watching films of Iraqi civilians being killed by US and UK troops.

But, in another report, he said that he had done it to create fear and alarm, in retaliation for the backlash against Muslims after 7 July. The true motivation behind the attacks remains unknown. One Scotland Yard spokesman said of Osman's comments: "He's going to say anything, isn't he? Who knows what's going on in their heads."

Q What are the implications for Tony Blair if there is a link to Iraq?

A The Prime Minister has sought to play down any link suggesting that the bombers were inspired to attack London because of his support for the war in Iraq. If Osman Hussain's comments continue to stress a more political (rather than religious) motivation, this could cause severe problems in the future for Mr Blair.

Q How many terror cells/would-be bombers are at large in the United Kingdom?

A Scotland Yard have played down speculation that there is a third cell, which they are actively hunting, but both Sir Ian Blair, the Commissioner and Peter Clarke, the Deputy Assistant Commissioner, and head of the anti-terrorist branch, have warned that the 7 July bombers and would-be bombers of 21 July would not have been acting alone. Sir Ian has also warned that there may be more terror cells.

Mr Clarke said that despite capturing the four suspected bombers and a fifth man linked to the cell, "the threat remains and is very real".

Terrorism and Jihad experts also have said it is likely there is more than one cell.

One report yesterday quoted security sources as saying that there are up to 300 would-be suicide bombers at large in the UK.

Q Did the July 21 bombers set out to kill - or not, as reports have suggested Osman has claimed?

A Osman was reported to have told interrogators that he was not carrying enough explosives even to "harm people nearby" and that the failed 21 July attacks were carried out as a "demonstration" aimed at causing panic and alarm. Police and weapons experts have strongly dismissed any such claims.

Sir Ian has insisted the intention of those who tried to set off the devices "must have been to kill" and a spokeswoman for Scotland Yard reiterated that assertion yesterday.

Had the explosions gone off, he said, then the carnage would have been at least as bad as the attacks two weeks earlier which killed 56 people, including the four suicide bombers.

Q What is the link, if any, between the bombers and Saudi Arabia?

A Scotland Yard has refused to comment on reports that telephone records of a mobile phone used by Osman showed a link to Saudi Arabia, but said that they were "liaising with our counterparts around the world" in an investigation which relied on intelligence worldwide. Magnus Ranstorp, director of the Centre of the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at St Andrews University, said that a foreign connection was likely.

"With every single terrorist event we've had ... there usually are foreign connections, even though the cannon fodder may be home grown," he said. "The Bouyeris network in the killing of [film-maker Theo] van Gogh in the Netherlands, the Madrid bombings - all of these investigations have a foreign component to them, which makes them extremely complex."

Q What happens next?

A Scotland Yard is continuing to question 19 suspects in connection with the London attacks, including three of the four suspected 21 July bombers. Osman, the fourth suspect is being held by Italian police. UK police are keen to extradite him as soon as possible, but Osman and his legal team are fighting the extradition.

Mr Ayers said that police will be working laterally to investigate the pyramid structure of the terror cell - or cells.

"They will be asking 'Who do you know, who do they know' to see if there are more cells operating. Did they hear of anybody else talking about terrorism, at Finsbury Park mosque, for instance? At the same time, they will be working up the structure. Who paid them, who supplied the money?"

He said investigators would have to work quickly. "Once these guys are arrested, those in charge will act. If they had mobile phones, they'll be chucked away, if they were operating under one name, they'll change it, houses will be evacuated. The higher up the organisation you are, the better you are.",3604,1540099,00.html

Second bomb suspect was seen in Rome

Seven arrested after raids in Brighton
Italians talk of dense support network

Duncan Campbell and John Hooper in Rome
Monday August 1, 2005
The Guardian

The suicide bomb suspect being held in Rome was the focus of the investigation into the London attacks yesterday as police arrested seven more people in Brighton. Politicians expressed dismay at the ease with which the wanted man, Hussein Osman (or Hamdi Isaac, as he is also believed to be called), had been able to leave the country.

Muktar Said-Ibrahim, the suspected ringleader of the July 21 bombings, was seen in Rome several weeks before the failed attack, two witnesses told the Guardian yesterday. A mother and daughter living downstairs from the flat in a Rome suburb where Osman and his brother were arrested on Friday said they had recognised Ibrahim from television footage.

Italian investigators arrested a second brother of Osman yesterday. Osman, whose court-appointed lawyer said he would fight an extradition request from Britain, travelled from London to Rome via Milan and Bologna at the end of last week. His progress across Europe was traced by calls he made from a mobile phone. Among possible links being examined are whether Osman phoned Saudi Arabia.

According to reports, Osman has admitted taking part in the failed attacks. His lawyer, Antonietta Sonnessa, was quoted as saying he had not intended there to be casualties. "He did not want to kill anyone, but merely to carry out an attention-grabbing act," she told Italy's Ansa news agency.

She added later: "He is not at all a violent person, and made sure he would not cause any damage, injuries or deaths." That was disputed last night by Scotland Yard, which insisted the devices had been set to explode.

Ms Sonnessa went on: "He had it only in mind to create further tension in an already tense situation."

Osman was also reported as saying: "Religion had nothing to do with it. We were shown videos of the Iraq war and told we must do something big."

An Italian legal source said last night that there was a very real prospect of Britain's extradition request for Osman being thwarted. Prosecutors have formally asked to investigate him on suspicion of international terrorism.

If their request is upheld at a hearing expected to be held in Rome today, then Osman would need to be kept in Italy while the investigation was completed. This alone could take a year, the sources said. But if he were to be tried and eventually imprisoned, it could be several years before Italy was ready to hand him over to Britain.

Yesterday's arrest came after the Italian interior minister, Giuseppe Pisanu, warned that Osman had been able to rely on a "dense network" of support in Italy.

Police identified the latest detainee as Fati Isaac, Osman's brother. He was formally arrested in the northern city of Brescia after a lengthy interrogation which began on Saturday. Police said he had been accused of hiding or destroying documents, but his girlfriend, Elvisa Falyc, claimed they were just a missing passport and birth certificate. A second brother, named as Remzi Isaac, was arrested on Friday, accused of forging documents.

Officials said Osman had lived in Italy during the 1990s and spoke good Italian. The witnesses interviewed by the Guardian said they had seen him several times at the housing estate where his brother Remzi lived.

The mother witness said she had seen Osman in early July: "We'd gone out for a pizza and were coming back at around 10.30 when I saw him with the other one, the one they arrested in London [Ibrahim]. They were speaking English. At least, they were speaking in a foreign language. I think it was English."

La Repubblica newspaper reported that, during his interrogation, Osman said Ibrahim had taught him to assemble bombs. But it quoted him as saying: "Muktar urged us to be careful. We didn't want to kill, just to spread terror."

In Brighton, police arrested seven more people, six men and a woman, at two addresses, bringing the total of those now in custody to 19. The July 21 suspects were all being interviewed yesterday. It has been suggested that one of the men is cooperating with the police.

While there is no specific intelligence of a "third cell" or plans for a fresh attack, police and intelligence sources are acutely aware that another attack may be planned.

Police also say they are aware that the bombers could come from any ethnic group, and that a white convert could offer his or her services. One police source said: "If you go to a mosque you will see people from every different ethnic background."

Thousands of police will continue to patrol the London transport system in operations similar to that mounted last Thursday. Had there not been a big operation then and something had happened, said a police source, the force would have been severely criticised.

Stop-and-search operations continued in the capital yesterday. The Home Office minister Hazel Blears defended the policy in the wake of comments by the head of British Transport police, Ian Johnston, that "we should not waste time searching old white ladies".

The deputy chief constable of the transport police, Andy Trotter, said yesterday that the stop-and-search operations had been "intelligence-led", particularly last Thursday when the four suspects were still at large.

"The searches will continue to be intelligence-led, and we are conscious of the fact that groups around the world have used women and children and people of many different ethnic backgrounds to carry out attacks," he said.

Police and politicians expressed concern at the apparent ease with which Osman had left the country.

The leader of the Commons, Geoff Hoon, said yesterday that he understood the concern and that the Home Office was investigating.

A Home Office spokesman said special passport checks had been introduced by the immigration service on July 7, at the request of the Metropolitan police, at all UK ports of embarkation. This should have included Waterloo station, the departure point for the Eurostar trains.

The checks were lifted on July 17, but were put back in place after the failed suicide bomb attempts of July 21.

Special reports
Attack on London
Politics and terrorism

In pictures
The July 21 suspects
Scenes of the failed July 21 attacks

More reports and analysis

Related articles
Eyewitness reports

Audio reports
21.07.05: Duncan Campbell in Shepherd's Bush
21.07.05: Vikram Dodd at Warren Street station
21.07.05: Patrick Barkham on the bus explosion

Where the July 21 explosions happened
The Birmingham arrests

Other useful links
Transport for London
Metropolitan police
Mayor of London

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