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Analyzing the backgrounds of the bombers

MSNBC Live's Amy Robach talks with MSNBC Analyst Con Coughlin about what new safety concerns arose from the new information about the terrorists' past.
/ Source: msnbc.com

On Wednesday, MSNBC Live’s Amy Robach spoke with MSNBC analyst Con Coughlin, a writer for the London Sunday Telegraph, to discuss what is known about the alleged suicide bombers who participated in last week's attacks. With new information about the participants’ personal lives and backgrounds, new questions emerge about how to prevent future incidents.

To read an excerpt of their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the interview, click on the “Launch” button to the right.

Amy Robach:A British news source calls it their worst fears coming true, at least three of the terrorists who died launching last Thursday’s bombings that killed at least 52 people were in fact British. We want to talk now with Con Coughlin in London. Con is a writer for the Sunday Telegraph, as well as an MSNBC analyst. Con thanks for being with us. As we start to get information about these young men, it’s not surprising that they were all under the age of 30, but what is surprising, is when you start to look at their personal information, these men had families, they presumably had futures. Tell us a little about what we are starting to find out about these men, and if it’s at all surprising to you.

Con Coughlin: Well the first thing we can say for sure is that all three of them are of Pakistani origin, they were British born, but their parents came from Pakistan. It seems that all three of those who have been identified travelled to Pakistan, at least one of them is thought to have been trained in one of Bin Laden’s camps in Afghanistan, but the really surprising thing Amy, is that they lived in a very close community in Northern England, and nobody, neither their family nor friends had any idea of what they were up to.

Robach: In fact one of them had an eight-month-old child, another one was in school, correct?

Coughlin: That’s right, the one with the young baby liked to go to the gym, liked to play cricket and he was just a normal young man, with normal interests. It seems, although I think police are talking to his wife, that she had no idea what he was up to, and basically these three young men met up to go to London, and their families basically thought they were having a guy’s day out in London, they thought nothing more of it.

Robach: Is that unusual that these bombers were able to be so secretive, that their own family member didn’t even have a clue that they had perhaps become radical in their religious beliefs?

Coughlin: Well the problem we’re facing Amy when dealing with the al-Qaida, is that the al-Qaida network has learned from its mistakes, it’s had a lot of experience in carrying out terrorist attacks, and of course after some of these attacks people have been caught, because they’ve spoken to their family or friends, so the new generation of al-Qaida bombers are basically instructed not to speak to anyone, you keep your counsel, you keep yourself to yourself, and that way the mission will be a success. This makes it even more difficult to fight the war on terror against people who are working for al-Qaida.

Robach: And obviously it’s a very daunting thought, given our ability to prevent a future attack by identifying potential attackers correct? So what does this leave investigators with?

Coughlin: Well it leaves them with an enormous problem I think. We have a very significant Muslim community in the U.K. I see some of the American press talking about "Londonistan," that we are the center of al-Qaida activity in the world, which I think is a bit of an exaggeration. We have a lot of young Muslims, a lot of them feel very alienated, for one reason or another, they live in very poor areas, and of course they’re very unhappy about a lot of the policies that the West pursues in Iraq, the support for Israel, things like this. These people are very easy recruiting material for the sergeant majors that run al-Qaida, so it really is an enormous challenge for the British and European security forces to try and deal with this problem.

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