One of the prime suspects in the failed July 21 bombings in London told British and Italian investigators on Tuesday that a bag packed with explosives and nails had been meant to scare, not to kill.
Hamdi Issac was seized in Rome on July 29 after fleeing London following the botched strike on the city’s transport system in which no one was hurt. Britain charged three fellow suspects in the attacks with attempted murder on Monday.
Issac, also known as Osman Hussein, was questioned in a Rome jail for three hours in the presence of British investigators.
“He knew there were explosives, but it was just to make noise, not to kill,” Issac’s lawyer, Antonietta Sonnessa, told reporters after the questioning. “It was just for show and was not intended to hurt anybody.”
But Issac acknowledged that along with the explosives, the rucksack he was carrying on the day of the attacks also contained nails, she said.
His statements come a day after the three other main suspects in the failed bombings appeared at a high-security court. Ibrahim Muktar Said, 27, Ramzi Mohammed, 23, and Yassin Hassan Omar, 24, were ordered to remain in custody until Nov. 14 on charges of attempted murder, conspiracy to murder, possessing or making explosives and conspiracy to use explosives. They face life in prison if convicted.
Isaac's questioning was presided over by Rome magistrate Domenico Miceli, who is due to hold an extradition hearing on Aug. 17. Sonnessa said five Britons were also present during the interrogation.
Sonnessa has said Issac may be able to avoid extradition due to proceedings against him in Italy, where he is suspected of international terrorism and carrying false documents. Italian police have said Issac is an Ethiopian national who lived in Italy from 1991 to 1996 before moving to Britain.
The July 21 attack came exactly two weeks after four young British Muslim men killed themselves and 52 other people with bombs on three underground trains and a bus in London.
Egypt frees detained chemist
Meantime, Egyptian authorities on Tuesday released a chemist detained for questioning following the July 7 bombings in London, an Interior Ministry official said.
Magdy el-Nashar had been sought by Britain in connection to the attacks in London. El-Nashar was arrested by the Egyptians soon after the bombings, and officials from Scotland Yard traveled to Egypt to attend his questioning.
An official from the ministry's media office said he was released after authorities found no evidence against him and no links to either the attacks or to al-Qaida.
"He is at home," said the official on condition of anonymity because he was speaking before an announcement from the ministry.
"There is nothing against him," the official said when asked whether el-Nashar would be extradited to Britain. Egypt has previously said it would not hand him over.
A spokeswoman for London's Metropolitan Police had no comment on the release, saying it was a matter for the Egyptian authorities. The force has previously said it was liaising closely with the Egyptians following the July 7 bombings, but hasn't identified el-Nashar as a suspect.
El-Nashar's younger brother, Mohammed, confirmed that he was home Tuesday. He said he didn't know if el-Nashar still intended to return to Britain.
"He is in good health, thank God," Mohammed el-Nashar said. "There were never any charges against him."
El-Nashar, 33, who briefly studied at a North Carolina university and obtained a doctorate from Leeds University in England, was detained at the request of the British government, which suspected him of links to some of the four bombers, three of whom are from the northern city of Leeds.
Traces of TATP, used by bomber Richard Reid who failed in 2001 to blow up an airplane with explosives in his shoes, were reportedly found in el-Nashar's apartment during raids in Leeds.