Four Britons Tied To London Blasts

Forensics Officer Leaves Suspect House
A police forensics officer leaves a house in Leeds in northern England after raids in connection with the London bombings. British police searched five homes in Leeds on Tuesday in the hunt for suspected al Qaeda bombers who killed at least 52 people in London train and bus attacks on July 7. (Ian Hodgson -- Reuters)
By Glenn Frankel
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, July 13, 2005

LONDON, July 12 -- Four young British citizens of Pakistani origin appear to have carried out last week's bombings of the London transit system, blowing themselves up along with their victims in what would be the first suicide attacks in Western Europe, British police said Tuesday.

In a day of fast-moving developments, heavily armed police backed by army units raided six houses in and around the northern city of Leeds seeking evidence, arrested a relative of one of the suspects and carried out a controlled detonation of explosives at one of the sites.

The preliminary findings against native-born Muslims brought expressions of anguish from a prominent Islamic community leader, as well as warnings from security officials that other people involved in the plot were probably still at large and dangerous, including the presumed bombmaker behind the operation. Britain remained on its highest-ever security alert.

Investigators say they believe the men drove to the Luton train station 30 miles north of the capital early Thursday morning and boarded a train to King's Cross station in north London. They were recorded there on closed-circuit security cameras just before 8:30 a.m.

Three of them boarded subway trains heading in different directions -- one toward Liverpool Street and Aldgate, one toward Edgware Road and one toward Russell Square. Bombs blew up on those three trains within 50 seconds of one another about 8:50 a.m.

The fourth man wound up on a No. 30 double-decker bus that was diverted to nearby Euston station after the explosions shut down King's Cross. His bomb detonated nearly an hour after the others at nearby Tavistock Square, killing at least 13 people.

In total, at least 52 people were killed and about 700 wounded.

The Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers used suicide attacks against targets in the United States; the tactic has become common in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East. But it has not been used before in Western Europe. The attacks on commuter trains in Madrid in March 2004 were carried out with planted bombs. Seven suspects later blew themselves up after being cornered by police; a police officer also died in that blast.

Counterterrorism officials in Europe have long feared that radical groups on the continent would eventually embrace suicide attacks as a strategy, copying a tactic that has been used widely against Israel for years.

"It's a pretty dramatic thing," said Evan F. Kohlmann, a New York-based terrorism consultant and researcher. "The British had felt that this kind of attack was inevitable, that it would happen no matter what. They had stopped a number of these guys before, but some finally got through."

Officials say they believe that the three men who attacked the London trains intended to kill themselves. Personal documents bearing the names of two of the men were found close to the seats where two of the train explosions took place.

Officials believe that those two men died on the trains. They suspect that the body of the third train bomber may be trapped in the wreckage of a subway car in the underground tunnel between the King's Cross and Russell Square stations.

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