Police: Bombing Suspects Are British Natives

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A police van drives through a street in Beeston in Leeds.

A police van drives through a street in Beeston in Leeds in northern England as investigations continue in the area in connection with the London bombings, July 13, Reuters hide caption

itoggle caption Reuters

London police say they believe the July 7 transit attacks were the work of four suicide bombers. They identified four British men of Pakistani descent as chief suspects. The men traveled from Leeds to London and were seen on a King's Cross station security camera before the blasts.

SUSAN STAMBERG, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Steve Inskeep is on assignment. I'm Susan Stamberg.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

In Britain today there is shock over the news that last Thursday's attack on London's transit system was apparently the work of homegrown suicide bombers. Police yesterday raided several homes in northern England. They subsequently announced that a young man who lived at one of the homes died in the attacks and there's evidence the others did as well. NPR's Jim Zarroli reports.

JIM ZARROLI reporting:

After five days with little sign of progress in the investigation into the bombings, police in Britain yesterday announced a major breakthrough, and events seemed to happen with dizzying speed. Peter Clarke, who heads the anti-terrorism branch of the metropolitan police, announced at a news conference that police had identified four men as the probable bombers.

Mr. PETER CLARKE (Anti-Terrorism Branch, Metropolitan Police): The investigation quite early led us to have concerns about the movements and activities of four men, three of whom came from the West Yorkshire area.

ZARROLI: Clarke said the men had traveled from Leeds to London early last Thursday morning. They were spotted on a closed-circuit TV camera together at the King's Cross station about 20 minutes before the bombings. One of the men was later reported missing by his family. Subsequently, Clarke said they found personal papers on three of the men at the bomb sites.

Mr. CLARKE: We also have very strong forensic and other evidence that it is very likely one of the men from West Yorkshire died in the explosion at Aldgate.

ZARROLI: At the same time, police swooped down on several homes in the Leeds area, carrying out a controlled explosion at one of them. They also found a car that had been left parked in a garage near the rail station in Luton 30 miles north of London.

Since then, some information has begun to emerge about the identities and backgrounds of the men. At least three were British men of Pakistani descent. The Daily Telegraph published an enormous picture on its front page of the British birth certificate of one of the men, 22-year-old Muhammad Tanweer(ph). He was described as a university-educated cricket player. Another man was 18-year-old Hasib Hussain of Leeds, the son of a fish-and-chips store owner. He was said to have had a troubled adolescence before becoming deeply religious about 18 months ago. A third man was said to be married with a baby daughter.

Today, The Times of London called the news that the killers were British natives `deeply unsettling' and said it has raised a number of new questions. Home Secretary Charles Clarke said in a BBC interview that police must ascertain what links the bombers had to organized groups.

Secretary CHARLES CLARKE (Home Secretary, Britain): We have to understand that these foot soldiers who've done this are only one element of an organization which is bringing about this kind of mayhem in our society.

ZARROLI: There also are questions about who coordinated the attacks and how the bombers obtained the explosives used. Police have said that high explosives were used in the attacks, meaning they were not homemade and might have been of military origin. It's also unclear why one of the bombs was set off on a bus and the other three were used on subway trains. Home Secretary Clarke said Britons need to understand that there probably are other attackers in their midst.

Sec. CLARKE: I certainly think we have to organize ourselves on the basis that there are other people prepared to act in this way, and we have to protect ourselves in the best way that we can against that.

ZARROLI: The Home secretary said officials also have to consider new measures against would-be terrorists, including deportations, though he conceded that was not really an option when the terrorists are British citizens. Jim Zarroli, NPR News, London.

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