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UK 'blocked bomb plotter' arrest
British police continue to make arrests in July 21 incidents

CNN | July 29, 2005

About a month before the July 7 bombings in London, British authorities balked at giving U.S. officials permission to apprehend a man now believed to have ties to the bombers, according to sources familiar with the investigation.

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Haroon Rashid Aswat, 30, of Indian heritage, is currently in custody in Zambia, U.S. and Zambian officials told CNN.

U.S. authorities wanted to capture Aswat, who was then in South Africa, and question him about a 1999 plot to establish a "jihad training camp" in Bly, Oregon.

According to the sources, U.S. officials had located Aswat in South Africa weeks before the July 7 attacks that killed 52 bus and subway travelers and the four bombers.

U.S. authorities had asked South Africa if they could take Aswat into custody. South Africa relayed the request to Britain, but authorities there balked because he was a British citizen, the sources said. While the debate was ongoing, Aswat slipped away. (Full story)

British authorities now suspect Aswat lent support to the July 7 bombers.

According to U.S. officials, Aswat was an unindicted co-conspirator in the terrorist camp case, which resulted in a guilty plea in 2003 by the main defendant, James Ujaama, of Seattle, Washington. (Full story)

Meanwhile Thursday in Britain -- one week after failed attacks on London's transit system that appeared to imitate the July 7 bombings -- a nationwide manhunt focused on three of the suspected terrorists.

Authorities have taken 20 people in custody, including one of the suspected bombers, as part of the investigation into the July 21 attacks on three Underground trains and a double-decker bus.

Nine men were arrested in the Tooting area of south London early Thursday -- six at one address and three at another, according to Metropolitan Police. Searches at the addresses were ongoing.

But as those arrests were announced, the country's top police official said more attacks were possible if the three other suspects in the attempted bombings remained at large.

"It does remain possible that those at large will strike again," Metropolitan Police Commissioner Ian Blair said. "It does also remain possible that there are other cells who are capable and intent on striking again."

As part of its investigation into the attempted bombings, police have taken 1,800 witness statements, have received 5,000 calls to the terrorist tip line, and are examining 15,000 closed-circuit television tapes.

The British government also announced that the Brazilian man mistakenly shot and killed by police at an Underground station last week had a false stamp on his passport and had been in Britain for two years with an expired visa. (Full story)

Police arrested three women Wednesday night on suspicion of "harboring offenders" in connection with the July 21 plot.

They were taken from a south London apartment raided by armed police and remained in custody Thursday in central London.

Three neighbors told CNN that one of the suspected would-be bombers -- the one who allegedly tried to set off a bomb at the city's Shepherd's Bush Underground Station -- lived there, having recognized him in a new photo released by police.

Resident Donna Priestley Moore said two of the women arrested were accompanied by children, including a toddler and a baby.

The apartment building, known as Blair House, is in the Stockwell neighborhood near the Stockwell Underground station where the Shepherd's Bush Station bomber and two other suspected bombers boarded their trains.

Police released a new picture of the suspected Shepherd's Bush bomber on Wednesday. It shows him in a closed-circuit television image riding a bus nearly an hour and a half after police say he tried to detonate his bomb.

Police believe the man -- who was previously pictured at the Stockwell station carrying a backpack and wearing a dark blue England soccer shirt -- threw that shirt away after fleeing the station, leaving it on a road that runs parallel to the train tracks. He then rode a bus for 50 minutes.

"We need to know where he went when he got off the bus," said Peter Clarke, head of the Metropolitan Police Anti-Terrorist Branch.
Three would-be bombers hunted

Arrested Wednesday as a suspect in the July 21 attempts was Yasin Hassan Omar, 24, a Somali with British residency.

Omar -- arrested in Birmingham, 100 miles north of London -- is suspected of placing a backpack bomb at London's Warren Street Underground station.

Clarke said he resisted arrested and was subdued after being shot with a Taser "stun gun." No gunshots were fired.

There was no intelligence to suggest that there were explosives in the house, Clarke said. But about 100 nearby homes were evacuated as a precaution.

Clarke called Omar's arrest "an important development in the investigation." He was taken to the high-security Paddington Green police station in London.

Three other men were arrested at a another address in Birmingham about the same time early Wednesday morning and were taken to another station.

"The second attacks on the 21st of July should not be taken as some indication that the weakening of the capability or resolve of those responsible," said Blair, the police commissioner.

"This is not the B-team. These weren't the amateurs. They made a mistake, they made one mistake. We are very, very lucky."

In addition to Omar, police have identified one other suspected bomber, Muktar Said Ibrahim, who was born in Eritrea and became a British citizen in 2003.

Residents of a north London building apartment raided Monday by Metropolitan Police have said Omar and Ibrahim lived together.

Three other men detained in connection to the July 21 probe remain in Paddington Green. Two others have been released.

 

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