Bank of England Freezes Plot Suspects' Assets

The detainees in an alleged plot to bomb U.S.-bound passenger planes lose access to British funds. And police in Pakistan say they arrested two more Britons along with a number of local suspects.

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

NPR's Guy Raz is also in London. He spent today in the neighborhood where nine of the suspects were arrested learning more about who they are and what their neighbors have to say about them.

GUY RAZ: There is something almost predictable about the way friends and neighbors describe arrested terror suspects the day after. It is no different in this case - quiet, friendly, studios, gentle - all adjectives you will hear in the coming four minutes. But first, what we know for sure.

We know that 24 people are being held in custody. We know the names of 19 of the suspects because the British Treasury froze their bank accounts. All are Muslim. The oldest is 34 and the youngest is 17. And at least three of the suspects are recent converts to Islam.

We also know that one of the 24 people in custody is a woman, the wife of another suspect.

(SOUNDBITE OF NEIGHBORHOOD TRAFFIC)

RAZ: The majority of the arrests took place right here, in London's East End neighborhood of Walthenstill(ph). It's a mixed community, ethnically diverse, where Hallal butcher shops and Greek mezza joints share the pavement. Folkston Road is rapidly becoming the center of a media circus. It's the street where Ibrahim Savant lived.

The house is small. It is very modest. There are a few police officers standing outside in front of it. Many of Ibrahim's friends are milling about in the neighborhood here. They all say he was quiet and devout and never discussed politics.

Ibrahim was actually born Oliver. And he converted to Islam in 1998. And in the past few years, he started wearing traditional Islamic robes.

SALAM RIFKUS: Over the years, he gradually grew up more and more religious, but I mean, he didn't become an extremist.

RAZ: Twenty-four-year-old Salam Rifkus described Ibrahim, or Ibs, as his friends refer to him, as an apolitical guy. Ibrahim was close with another suspect in the case, Wahid Zamon(ph), and the two used to hang out in the neighborhood, says 23-year-old Ishtiyak Hussein.

ISHTIYAK HUSSEIN: They never spoke politics. They spoke always about religious. And both of them got a lot of non-Muslim friends.

RAZ: Wahid received a BA in biochemistry from London Metropolitan University and for a time, he worked as a sales rep at the London toy store Hamley's.

About a mile away, at the Lee's Bridge Road Mosque, Imtiyas Hadir(ph), a senior member of the community, is trying to tamp down the hype for now. He knows three of the suspects, Olmer, Nehran and Nabil Hussein, all brothers, all in their early twenties.

IMTIYAS HADIR: This is totally out of character, what's being portrayed in the news at the moment. They are very gentle and they are very practicing young men.

RAZ: But Walthenstill has had a few problems in the recent past. Last year, Walthenstill's local council banned a rally at the Islamic community center here after fliers were passed around showing an Islamic street fighter aiming a rocket launcher at 10 Downing Street.

What is not yet clear is what connects all 24 suspects arrested on Tuesday night. Two of the arrests were actually made in central England, in Birmingham, and a few others in High Wickham. That's about 30 miles from here in the East End of London.

There is a strong consensus among those who knew at least some of the suspects that there is no way they could have been part of a plot like this.

Guy Raz, NPR News, London.

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