Nine More Held in July 21 London Attacks

British authorities now have 17 people in custody in relation to a failed July 21 attack on the London transit system. Nine men were arrested early Thursday. So far, the most notable arrest is that of 24-year-old Yasin Hassan Omar, accused of a direct role in the July 21 bombing attempts.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

Police in London made nine more arrests today in their investigation into last week's failed attacks on the city's transportation system. The biggest manhunt in British history continues with police searching for three of the suspects. Today the head of the Metropolitan Police again warned there could be more attacks. NPR's Rachel Martin joins me now from London.

Hello.

RACHEL MARTIN reporting:

Hi, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Tell us about the latest in this investigation.

MARTIN: Well, these nine men were detained in a south London neighborhood of Tooting. The police raided two different premises and six men were detained from one house, three from another. There are British media reports that none of those detained are believed to be any of the three suspected bombers. The men are being held under the Terrorism Act in Great Britain, which was passed in 2000.

These arrests this morning bring the total number of people in custody to 17, but clearly, the most significant of these was the arrest of 24-year-old Yasin Hassan Omar. He's undergoing a second day of questioning today at London's high-security police station; that's Paddington Green in central London. Omar was arrested yesterday by anti-terrorist officers in Birmingham, which is a town about a hundred miles north of London. Omar was found early yesterday morning in a raid on a house in the Hay Mills area of Birmingham. Police say he was alone in the house and was wearing a backpack similar to the ones that were carried by the men who staged last week's bombings. Police say they had to use a TASER to subdue Omar during the arrest.

There were also other arrests in London last night. Police detained three women in the south London neighborhood of Stockwell. Stockwell is that area where three of the suspected bombers boarded the subway system just before the bombings last week. Police are questioning them about harboring at least one of the suspected bombers or their accomplices.

MONTAGNE: And police are working overtime, I gather, to find the three bombers who are still at large. And what are they saying today about that?

MARTIN: We heard from the head of the Metropolitan Police here, Ian Blair, this morning, and Blair said police have taken 5,000 calls to the anti-terrorist hot line from the public. And he's been pleased with the public response. He said officers have viewed 15,000 closed-circuit TV tapes and they've taken 1,800 witness statements. All are part of this massive investigation. Blair described it as the greatest operational challenge for the Metropolitan Police since World War II. He said he was confident, though, that police will find the bombers and those who backed them. Here's a little of what he had to say.

Sir IAN BLAIR (Head of Metropolitan Police): It does remain possible that those at large will strike again. And it does also remain possible that there are other cells who are capable and intent on striking again.

MARTIN: Blair also reiterated his appeal to the public to stay vigilant and reminded the public that they are a key part of this investigation in bringing any information that could be helpful. The point was echoed last night by the head of the Metropolitan Police anti-terrorism branch, Peter Clarke, during a televised statement he gave. Clarke talked about the significance of the arrest of Yasin Hassan Omar in Birmingham, and here's what he said.

Mr. PETER CLARKE (Metropolitan Police Anti-Terrorism Branch): This, of course, is an important development in the investigation. However, I must stress how important it is for the public to remain watchful and alert. We are still looking for the other three men whose pictures we have released and who we believe tried to set off bombs on the 21st of July.

MONTAGNE: So that was the London police's--head of its anti-terrorism branch. It's been a week since last Thursday's attempted bombings. How's the security operation that's ongoing affecting daily life there in London?

MARTIN: There's definitely an increased presence in the transport system. Public transport in London is generally back to normal, but there are still a couple of subway lines this morning that are not fully operating because of the investigation.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Rachel Martin in London.

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