Video: London bombing probe

NBC News and news services
updated 7/19/2005 8:25:33 AM ET 2005-07-19T12:25:33

A Pakistani official said Monday that three of the four suspected London suicide bombers traveled to this city last year, and investigators searched for clues in the northern British town of Leeds, where some of the attackers lived.

And further deepening the Pakistan connection, Western intelligence sources have told NBC News that an admitted al-Qaida operative informed interrogators he took one of the bombers to a terrorist training camp in Pakistan .

Mohammed Junad Babar, the al-Qaida operative, told interrogators he took Mohammad Sidique Khan to a suspected al-Qaida training camp in Pakistan during a previous visit, U.S. sources said. Babar is now in U.S. custody.

Authorities in Pakistan were trying to determine whether extremists in that country aided in the July 7 attacks, which killed 56 people, including the bombers. The three were identified by their photos with those taken of the men as they went through immigration in Karachi.

U.K. reacts to terrorism risk report
Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government, meanwhile, reacted sharply to a report by two leading think tanks that said Britain’s close alliance with the United States in the Iraq war has put it at particular risk of terrorist attack .

The Royal Institute of International Affairs and the Economic and Social Research Council said the situation in Iraq had given “a boost to the al-Qaida network’s propaganda, recruitment and fund-raising” and provided an ideal training ground for al-Qaida-linked terrorists.

“The terrorists have struck across the world, in countries allied with the United States, backing the war in Iraq and in countries which had nothing whatever to do with the war in Iraq,” Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said in Brussels, Belgium.

Schoolyard-bully analogy
Defense Secretary John Reid said terrorism had to be confronted.

“The idea that somehow by running away from the school bully, then the bully will not come after you is a thesis that is known to be completely untrue by every kid in the playground, and it is also refuted by every piece of historical evidence that we have,” Reid said in a BBC radio interview.

Three of the suspects traveled to Karachi in southern Pakistan last year, but their purpose remains unclear, said Shahid Hayyat, a deputy director at the country’s Federal Investigation Agency. “I have no such information, but I know that our security agencies are trying to get such details,” he said.

Suspect Hasib Hussain, 18, arrived in July 2004 aboard a Saudi airliner. Shahzad Tanweer, 22, and Sidique Khan, 30, arrived Nov. 19 aboard a Turkish Airlines flight and returned to London in February 2005, Hayyat told The Associated Press on Monday.

Karachi as crossroads
Karachi, a transit hub for travelers to Pakistan, is the country’s commercial capital and its largest city with a population of 15 million.

The vast metropolis has been the scene of several terrorist attacks against foreigners, as well as minority Shiite Muslims and Christians. Security officials in Karachi have arrested several al-Qaida operatives, including Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who was caught after a shootout in September 2002.

Pakistani intelligence officials have said Tanweer briefly stayed at a religious school in Lahore and met with a member of an outlawed domestic militant group. Pakistani intelligence agents have questioned students, teachers and administrators at the school and at least two other al-Qaida-linked radical Islamic centers.

Tanweer, Khan and Hussain, who were all from the Leeds area, were born in Britain to Pakistani immigrants. A fourth suspect, 19-year-old Germaine Lindsay, came to Britain from Jamaica as an infant and lived in Luton, north of London.

Bombers caught on camera
Police on Saturday released an image captured by surveillance cameras showing all four bombers with backpacks entering Luton train station on the morning of the attacks on three subway trains and a double-decker bus. Investigators say they took a train from Luton to London’s King’s Cross station, where they split up to carry out the bombings.

In Leeds on Monday, police searched an Islamic book shop, the Iqra Learning Centre, for the fourth straight day.

Officers also have been searching the Leeds home of an Egyptian biochemist after investigators reportedly found traces of explosives in his bathtub. Magdy Mahmoud Mustafa el-Nashar, a former Leeds University teacher, was arrested in Egypt where he is being interrogated by authorities who say the biochemist denies any connection to the attacks.

Egypt’s leading pro-government newspaper, Al-Ahram, quoted an unidentified security source Monday as saying el-Nashar has told investigators he rented a house to Hussain, whom he knew from their contacts at a university mosque. According to Al-Ahram, el-Nashar said British investigators found his name in Hussain’s phone book.

No handover planned
Egypt is not prepared to hand el-Nashar over to Britain, Egyptian security officials said. The two countries have no extradition treaty. British investigators are in Cairo to observe his questioning.

The Sunday Times reported that one of the suspected bombers, Khan, was investigated last year by MI5, Britain’s domestic intelligence service, but was not regarded as a threat to national security or subsequently put under surveillance.

MI5 began evaluating Khan during an inquiry that focused on an alleged plot to explode a large truck bomb in London, the newspaper said.

The Metropolitan Police and a Blair spokesman declined comment.

Suspect defended
At the Hillside Primary School in Leeds where Khan was a teaching assistant for nearly four years, teacher Sarah Balfour described him as “hardworking, passionate and dedicated in his work with children.”

“All of us at Hillside are utterly shocked to hear that one of our staff had been responsible for such an horrific act,” Balfour said in a statement.

On Sunday, Britain’s largest Sunni Muslim group issued a binding religious edict, or fatwa, condemning the bombings as the work of a “perverted ideology.” The Sunni Council said the Quran, the Muslim holy book, forbade suicide attacks.

The council said Muslims should not use “atrocities being committed in Palestine and Iraq” to justify attacks.

NBC’s Lisa Myers and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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