British Pursue Link Between 2 Sets of Bombers
Monday, July 25, 2005
LONDON, July 24 -- Investigators hunting four fugitives wanted for the abortive bombing of the city's transit system last week have linked them to the four presumed suicide bombers who killed 52 bystanders and wounded 700 others two weeks earlier, a British official said Sunday.
Meanwhile, the country's highest-ranking police officer made a public apology for the killing of a Brazilian man at a subway station Friday by plainclothes officers who mistook him for a suspected terrorist.
Many of the Brazilian's relatives and friends rejected the official explanation for the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes. The 27-year-old electrician was on his way to a job when he was chased into a subway car by undercover policemen, one of whom shot him in the head five times in front of horrified passengers.
An official confirmed press reports that investigators had found a brochure for a whitewater rafting company in the backpack that one of the fugitives had left on the upper deck of a double-decker bus in east London on Thursday. Earlier, police had determined that at least two of the men presumed to have been suicide bombers in the deadly July 7 attacks -- Mohammed Sidique Khan, 30, and Shehzad Tanweer, 22 -- had taken part in a rafting trip at the company's center in northern Wales in early June.
Khan and Tanweer appear smiling and relaxed on a raft in a photograph of participants from that day.
Police are investigating the possibility that all eight of the men met up that day, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, and that they might have been brought together by another person who helped coordinate the two attacks and might provide a link to the al Qaeda network. The discovery of the brochure was first reported by British newspapers and the New York Times.
One working police theory is that the would-be bombers of July 21, whose backpacks of powerful homemade explosives failed to detonate, are from a cell of northern Africans living in the London area, the official said. The men who police believe carried out the July 7 attacks were British Muslims -- three of them of Pakistani origin from the northern England city of Leeds, the fourth a Jamaican-born convert to Islam.
The other potential link between the two groups is the explosives. Investigators believe triacetone triperoxide was used in both sets of attacks, although they have still not conclusively identified the substance in the July 7 bombings. Traces of it were found in the pipes of a tub in a Leeds apartment believed to have been rented by one of the bombers, as well as in nine small bombs found in a rental car left by one of the men in a train station north of London.
Police announced that they arrested an unidentified man Sunday evening. He is the third man being held for questioning under anti-terrorism laws since Thursday's failed bombings on three subway trains and a bus -- attacks that injured only one person but mirrored the deadly strike two weeks earlier. Bomb disposal experts carried out a controlled explosion of a suspicious package they said might be linked to the attack.
The Sunday Telegraph reported that Khan, believed to have been the leader of the London suicide team, met in Pakistan last fall with an alleged al Qaeda operative, Mohammed Yasin, alias Ustad Osama, an explosives specialist with the extremist Harkat-e-Jihad group. The newspaper cited unnamed Pakistani intelligence sources for its claim.
A veteran of militant training camps along the remote Afghanistan-Pakistan frontier, Yasin, who is in his thirties, is reputed to be an expert at manufacturing "suicide jackets," the newspaper reported. His name is included on a list of the 70 most wanted terrorists issued by Pakistani officials in December 2003.
While detectives hunted the would-be bombers, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Ian Blair offered his "deep regrets" to the de Menezes family for Friday's shooting but said his department would not change the "shoot to kill" policy it uses when facing what it deems a genuine terrorist threat.