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London ``suicide bombers'' were of Pakistani origin

ON HIGH ALERT: Police stand guard over a cordon in Beeston, near Leeds, in England on Tuesday after five houses in West Yorkshire were raided in connection with last week's bombings. ... PHOTO: AP

ON HIGH ALERT: Police stand guard over a cordon in Beeston, near Leeds, in England on Tuesday after five houses in West Yorkshire were raided in connection with last week's bombings. ... PHOTO: AP  

LONDON: A wave of shock, anxiety and embarrassment swept through Britain's tense Asian Muslim community on Wednesday after the police announced that three of the four alleged "suicide bombers" behind last week's deadly attacks on the London underground network were young men of Pakistani origin, all born and brought up in Britain.

They were identified as Shehzad Tanweer (22), Hasib Hussain (19) and Mohammed Siddique Khan (30) — sons of respectable and hard-working immigrant families from Pakistan settled in the predominantly Asian area of Leeds in West Yorkshire.

The identity of the fourth man has also been established but details are not immediately known except that he too belongs to Leeds. The police are also reported to be looking for a fifth man.

The four allegedly blew themselves up while carrying out what the police called Western Europe's first terrorist attack involving a British "suicide" squad. They were described as "clean-skins" — men who did not appear on the "security radar" because they had no previous record of involvement in a terrorist activity.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said there would be "a sense of profound shock and anxiety" that the suspected terrorists were British. He called for efforts to "mobilise the moderate and true voice of Islam." He met Muslim MPs to discuss ways to tackle "this evil within the Muslim community," the vast majority of which, he said, was law-abiding and peaceful.

A copy of the birth certificate of Shehzad Tanweer, a `suicide bomber' in the London attacks. - PHOTO: AP

A copy of the birth certificate of Shehzad Tanweer, a `suicide bomber' in the London attacks. - PHOTO: AP  

The disclosure that the atrocity, in which more than 50 persons were killed and hundreds injured, was committed by "home-grown" terrorists rather than foreign extremists, as had been speculated, prompted fresh warnings that more attacks were not ruled out.

The breakthrough in the week-long investigations came after the CCTV cameras at the King's Cross station picked up images of four young men of apparent Asian origin, all carrying similar-looking rucksacks and splitting at one point to head in different directions.

This was at 8.20 a.m. Thirty minutes later the first bomb went off on a train between Liverpool Street and Aldgate in East London, followed by more explosions on other routes in quick succession, including one on a bus.

MEN AND MACHINE: In Leeds, policemen and a bomb disposal robot at work. -- PHOTO: AP

MEN AND MACHINE: In Leeds, policemen and a bomb disposal robot at work. -- PHOTO: AP  

The alleged suspects were identified from their personal documents, such as credit cards and driving licences, found near their bodies.

The police said it was as though they "wanted their identities to be known" in order to "send a message" that they were British and there were a "lot more like them." Later, the police raided several homes in Leeds including those of the alleged bombers.

The police believe that while three travelled to London together, Tanweer came separately. Ironically, the search for at least one of them — Hasib Hussain — started after his mother called up the police to report that he had been missing and might have been caught up in the blasts. He had left home the previous evening telling his parents that he was going to meet friends in London.

NO ENTRY: A police officer manning a cordon, with local people unable to return to their homes. -- PHOTO: AP

NO ENTRY: A police officer manning a cordon, with local people unable to return to their homes. -- PHOTO: AP  

In the suburban Muslim neighbourhoods of Leeds, the news was greeted with disbelief. Families of the alleged bombers said they were "shattered" and begged to be left alone.

An uncle of Tanweer, whose father runs a fish-and-chip shop, said his nephew, who had been to Pakistan two months earlier this year to study religion, could not have done such a thing. "It wasn't him. It must have been the forces behind him." Tanweer's friends said they were worried after he went missing last week, but the last thing that they could have imagined was that he was behind the bombings. They described him as a "friendly lad" who always told "other kids to stay out of trouble." A relative of Hussain said that after a visit to Pakistan last year he had suddenly become very religious and "gone off the rails." "His parents were very worried. They wanted to instil some discipline in him."

Amid fears of an anti-Muslim backlash, leaders from across the political divide appealed for peace and sought to unite behind the message that what happened last week was the work of "evil men," motivated by what Mr. Blair described as a "perverted" reading of Islam. A Labour MP, Shahid Malik, urged the Muslim community to play its "role" in combating terrorism. He said the situation represented the "most profound challenge yet faced by the Muslim community" — a view echoed by Muslim leaders.

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