Jon Super  /  AP
Members of the media mob the fish and chip shop owned by Mohammed Tanweer, the father of suspected London suicide bomber Shahzad Tanweer.
updated 7/13/2005 5:32:08 PM ET 2005-07-13T21:32:08

Every week, 22-year-old Shahzad Tanweer joined friends for games of soccer and his beloved cricket.

Hasib Hussain, 19, was a charmer who liked to flirt. He wore blue contact lenses and hair so long that one friend said it “fell like a curtain” atop his lanky frame.

Thirty-year-old Mohammed Sidique Khan worked as a counselor in a youth center. He seemed to spend more time in the gym than the mosque.

Such images and memories of bright young men have been crushed by a grim portrait given by police: It portrays them as Britons of Pakistani origin united by radical Islam who, with a fourth man, carried out suicide bus and subway bombings in London that killed at least 52 people and wounded 700.

Police have not publicly confirmed the identities of any suspects, but British media have named three — all from Leeds. Their possible dual lives and what might have driven them to violence was the only topic Wednesday in this working-class northern city with a vibrant, multiethnic population.

Tanweer, whose Pakistani-born father owns a fish-and-chips shop, lived all his life in the city’s Beeston area. A devoted athlete, he studied sports science at Leeds Metropolitan University and planned to get involved in sports professionally. He showed up twice a week for pickup soccer games, said a teammate who gave his name only as Saj.

“He was normal. We used to drink Coke and Fanta together,” said Saj. “He was quiet. He was religious. He went to every mosque here. There are loads of mosques here.”

It was unclear what might have driven the three men to the radical side, as it was unclear how much contact they had with Muslim extremist groups or cells outside Britain.

Tanweer went to Lahore, Pakistan, this year to study the Islamic religion, and his family believed he was attending “some religious function” on the day of the bombings, said his uncle, 65-year-old Bashir Ahmed.

Forensic evidence has linked Tanweer to the blast on the Underground train near Aldgate.

The uncle said the family was “left shattered” and in disbelief that Tanweer could have organized such violence, the Press Association reported. “It wasn’t him. It must have been forces behind him.

“It was total shock, I mean, it’s unbelievable,” Ahmed told reporters, but he denied that his nephew had gone to Afghanistan and taken part in training camps.

“There is no way, I have seen his passport,” he said.

Another friend, Azzy Mohammed, 21, added: “He’s the kind of person who gets along with anyone. His sense of humor is very good. He’s a sweet lad.”

Hussain — suspected of carrying out the suicide attack that claimed 13 lives on a double-decker bus — was known for his sense of humor and style. He wore blue contact lenses and long hair parted in the middle.

“It fell like a curtain on his head,” said a friend, who asked to be identified only by the initial G. Many Muslims in Leeds refused to give their full names to reporters for reasons including community loyalty, suspicion of the media, or fear of reprisal for being associated with the suspects.

“He was a good lad ... a good-looking man. He had a good personality,” the friend said.

Some people said Hussain became more religious two years ago but never abandoned his boyhood friends for radicals.

Khan was born in Pakistan and has an 8-month-old daughter. He grew up in Leeds but moved five months ago to Dewsbury in West Yorkshire. He worked with disabled children while his wife, Hasina, was involved in education, neighbors said.

One neighbor, Sara Aziz, 28, said she saw him going to the gym in the mornings. Others neighbors said they rarely saw him in the local mosque and he never talked with them about religion.

Documents in the debris
Documents belonging to Khan were found in the debris of the Edgware Road subway blast.

Zaher Birawi, chairman of Leeds Grand Mosque, condemned the bombings and said he feared possible reprisals against Muslims.

“We hope there will be no more Islamophobic attacks on our community,” he said Wednesday in an interview with British Broadcasting Corp. radio. He said the Muslim safety forum had received reports of more than 400 such attacks around the country.

“I feel angry that those people came from the Muslim community in Leeds, because there is no evidence, no indications that such wrong understanding is distributed within the community,” said Birawi, adding he had not met any of the suspects.

Immigrants from western Asia started coming to Leeds after World War II. Today, ethnic minorities account for 8.2 percent of the 715,000 population of Leeds; Pakistanis and Indians are the two largest groups, according to the 2001 census.

Racial tensions erupted in Leeds in the 1990s, with riots between whites and South Asians, blacks and Caribbean immigrants. But over the years this waning industrial hub has managed to revive itself as a center for shoppers, museum-goers and fiercely devoted football fans.

“Leeds has reinvented itself fabulously in the last 25 years, moving away from textiles and heavy industry. It’s quite striking,” said Roger Boyle, a computer professor at Leeds University and amateur historian.

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