London Probe Extends Abroad
Saturday, July 16, 2005
LONDON, July 15 -- The probe into the London suicide attacks shifted overseas Friday as officials in Cairo announced the arrest of a wanted biochemist and authorities searched for a Pakistani man suspected of helping in the plot and leaving the country the day before the bombings.
A separate search continued for a man whom a security videotape shows talking with the bombers in a train station the morning of the attacks, intelligence sources said.
A week into the highly secretive probe, investigators appeared to be theorizing a conspiracy of at least seven people -- the four bombers plus these three possible accomplices. In Pakistan, they said, there might be more.
Counterterrorism officials in that country confirmed Friday that two of the bombers visited Pakistan separately in the past year and apparently met with members of radical Islamic networks. Friends have said a third bomber also traveled to the country. These three of the four bombers were of Pakistani heritage.
"There is a Pakistan connection," Ian Blair, head of the British police, told the BBC on Friday morning. "But what we expect to find at some stage is that there is a clear al Qaeda link because the four men who are dead are in the category of foot soldiers."
The hunt for the man who spoke with the bombers began after British intelligence reviewed a surveillance video from Luton rail station north of London and saw the four attackers huddled in conversation with another man on the morning of the bombings, British and U.S. intelligence sources said Friday.
British intelligence has interviewed a witness who was at the station at the time, according to the sources, who could discuss intelligence matters only on condition of anonymity. The witness told authorities that when the conversation among the men ended, the four now identified as the bombers walked away together, while the other, still-unidentified man left alone in the opposite direction and boarded a train.
The Pakistani man who is being sought has not been identified. But two investigators said he entered Britain at a port on the English Channel two weeks before the July 7 subway and bus bombings and then left the country the day before the attacks.
The man had been on Britain's terrorism watch list but was still allowed to enter the country. One of the officials said the suspect is one of several foreign citizens whom investigators are seeking but cautioned against speculation that he had engineered the attacks.
Blair confirmed that the suspect was not placed under surveillance when he came to Britain last month because he was not classified as a high risk. "With this man, there is nothing at the moment that links him directly" to the conspiracy, he said. Other officials said investigators were still trying to determine whether the man had contact with the bombers while he was in the country.
One intelligence source cautioned that despite several promising leads, authorities were still not convinced the operation was planned or ordered from outside Britain. "Al Qaeda has sometimes used someone as an ignition key to set off an attack, but in this case, we don't have that yet," one source said.
Meanwhile, Pakistani intelligence and law enforcement agents questioned relatives and others who had contact with Shehzad Tanweer, 22, and Hasib Hussain, 18, during separate visits they made to the city of Lahore in the past year. They found evidence that the men had met with suspected militants, according to two senior Pakistani officials.