In a quiet neighborhood of this scruffy town, the Muslim call to prayer echoes from the Jame mosque five times a day -- not through loudspeakers, but transmitters inside many houses.

Then, Pakistani and Indian males obediently stream in from all directions toward the place of worship, greeting friends with a hearty "Assalaam alaikum" -- "May peace be upon you."

Most come in their daily attire: traditional tunics and white mosque hats. Their beards are long and bushy like those of Muslim clerics. Some of the youths have hip haircuts and beefy physiques.

The women pray at home. When they do go out, many don abayas, the loose, black, floor-length robes like those worn by Saudi Arabian women, sometimes with a matching head scarf and veil that can hide a face entirely.

This is the world in which Haroon Rashid Aswat was raised. He is now the focus of a worldwide hunt, for possibly playing a key role in the July 7 bombings in London that killed at least 56 people, including the four bombers, and wounded 700.

"This is a very closely knit community," said Wasim, who lives next door to the Aswat family and gave only his first name. "People don't speak much, but everyone knows everyone."

The family said in a statement that they had not seen Aswat in years.

In London, Aswat was an aide to Abu Hamza Masri, the fiery, radical Muslim preacher with one eye and hooks for hands, who has been indicted on terror-related charges.

Aswat traveled to the United States, investigators say, and had a role in a plot to set up a terror training camp in Oregon. He has also been in Britain, Pakistan and India. Two U.S. officials said he had visited other countries as well.

Aswat's cell phone received as many as 20 calls from several of the London bombers, according to intelligence and law enforcement officials. The last call, one official said, was made in London the night before the July 7 attacks.

Authorities here and in the United States caution that it is unknown what role, if any, Aswat played in the bombings. "If this guy does turn out to be the mastermind, it isn't based on any information we have so far," said one U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Aswat hails from the same general area of West Yorkshire in north-central England as three of the July 7 bombers. Mohammed Sidique Khan, 30, one of those men, lived the closest to him in nearby Dewsbury.

Over the past three decades, Batley has attracted thousands of immigrants from South Asia, including Indians who were deported en masse from Uganda by that East African country's dictator, Idi Amin. Many are Sunni Muslims who practice a conservative brand of Islam.

Today, Asians are rarely seen mixing with whites here. Like other areas nearby, Batley has had its share of ethnic tensions, crime and drugs, earning it the nickname "the Bronx." This week, an employee from a security company hooked up an alarm and security cameras at the Jame mosque as a precaution.

The uproar over the London bombings landed at the doorstep of the Aswat family's two-story, beige brick home on Thursday.

Televisions cameras pointed at their black door. A pair of police officers walked the sidewalks shooing away journalists who tried to interview the family.

A British newsman carrying an open laptop chased after a relative to show him a digital picture of a thick-bearded man with a steely glare.

"Is this Haroon?" the man asked.

"No comment," replied the startled relative, rushing off.

When journalists knocked on their door, a head peeked out and then a hand shot out with a printed statement: "THERE IS NO STORY WE CAN PROVIDE. He has not lived at this house and we have not had contact with him for many years. We ask the press to go away."

Friends and neighbors said in interviews that family members, Muslims from the Indian state of Gujarat, were waiting anxiously to find out if Aswat was involved in the bombings. British newspapers have said his departure from the house years ago was the result of a falling-out.

The family is devastated that Aswat might have had a role in such a murderous act, said family friends. "The Indian Gujarati community follows Gandhi," said Yusuf Mayet, a community activist who knows one of Aswat's five brothers. "They are a nonviolent people. So this is a great shock."

Wasim, the neighbor, described the Aswats as "down to earth" and "devout Muslims." Rashid Aswat, Haroon's father, was a fruit seller, he said, and sits on the governing committee of the Jame mosque, a few yards from the family's house.

Haroon Rashid Aswat attended schools in Batley and Dewsbury, then a technical college in nearby Bradford. One classmate recalled him as quiet and deeply religious.

Over the years, the family has kept silent about their long-lost son.

"I have never heard him mentioned," said Shabaz Hussain, 25, a customer service employee for the local gas company who knows two of Aswat's brothers.

Staff writer Dafna Linzer in Washington contributed to this report.