Police name bomb suspects

Posted in Europe | 26-Jul-05 | Author: Duncan Campbell, Rosie Cowan, Ian Cobain and Audrey Gillan| Source: Guardian (UK)

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Ian Blair speaks to a forum of senior officers and community leaders in New Scotland Yard, central London.

· Man's father held for interview
· Fifth plotter could be on the loose

Two of the four men wanted in connection with last week's failed suicide bomb attempts in London were yesterday named by police as the hunt for them intensified across the capital last night.

The search, involving thousands of officers, continued as the prime minister expressed his personal sadness over the death of the young Brazilian shot in error by a police marksman last Friday.

Police would not last night identify the nationalities of the two wanted men or comment on speculation that they were from East Africa. They revealed that they now believed that a fifth would-be bomber may have been involved in the unsuccessful attacks.

Five people have been arrested as part of the inquiry although none are thought to be the would-be bombers.

In another day of fast-moving events, the head of the anti-terrorist branch, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke, named the man whom police believe tried to set off an explosive device on the No 26 bus on Hackney Road, east London, last Thursday; the suspect is 27-year-old Muktar Said-Ibrahim, also known as Muktar Mohamed-Said.

Neighbours of Mr Mohamed-Said's family, in Stanmore, north-west London, said last night they believed the family were from Somalia. It is understood the family have lived in Britain for up to 10 years. Police were interviewing the man's father last night.

A woman, who identified herself as the suspect's cousin, said "he doesn't live here anyway". However, a man of an almost identical name had been using that address between 1996 and 2000.

The man believed by police to have tried to blow up a Victoria line tube train, between Oxford Circus and Warren Street stations, was named as Yasin Hassan Omar, 24. He was seen vaulting over the ticket barrier and running from Warren Street station shortly afterwards. Enfield council, in north London, said yesterday that a man of that name had been given a one-bedroom council flat in Southgate, in 1999, and that he had received housing benefit until this May.

As yet, the two other suspects have not been identified. Police commended members of the public who tried to stop one man, who fled from Oval station, but said there had been no further sightings of him. The Shepherd's Bush suspect, who was shown on CCTV carrying a small rucksack, had apparently climbed out of the train window and run along the track to escape.

The police also confirmed that a device found in west London on Saturday was similar to the four bombs that failed to explode.

All the homemade bombs had been constructed inside plastic food boxes and police were hoping that the devices could help them find the wanted men.

Yesterday the inquest opened at Southwark coroner's court into the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, 27, the Brazilian electrician shot dead by police on a tube train in Stockwell on Friday. It emerged that he had been shot seven times in the head and once in the shoulder.

The Home Office would not comment on BBC reports, citing security sources, that Mr De Menezes had overstayed his visa. However, last night the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, said: "I don't have any precise information about his immigration status here. My understanding is that he was here lawfully."

His comments were echoed by Brazil's foreign minister, Celso Amorim, who told a press conference: "The information we have got from our consulate is that he was here lawfully."

Tony Blair yesterday added his voice to the regrets about the death already expressed by the commissioner of the Metropolitan police, Sir Ian Blair. "We are desperately sorry for the death of an innocent person and I understand entirely the feelings of the young man's family.

"But we also have to understand the police are doing their job in very, very, difficult circumstances and I think it is important that we give them every support and that we understand that had the circumstances been different and, for example, this had turned out to be a terrorist and they had failed to take that action, they would have been criticised the other way."

Mr Blair and the French prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, agreed yesterday to maintaining closer cooperation in tracking down the bombers and investigating their motives.

Mr De Villepin said that both France and Britain faced problems from "jihadists" who had returned to Europe from training camps in Afghanistan and Iraq. "We are both convinced that there is radical Islamism being developed in our countries, which seeks to attract the youngest people," he added.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission yesterday took over the investigation into the shooting of Mr De Menezes. Its director of operations, Roy Clark, will lead the inquiry. Last night, the commission's chairman, Nick Hardwick, said: "This is a tragic and very grave incident. The family and friends of Mr De Menezes must be devastated. I would like to offer them my heartfelt condolences ... We enter this with open minds, as a search after truth and we have accepted the full cooperation of the Metropolitan police, which they have pledged."

As relatives of the dead man in London and in Brazil expressed their dismay and the possibility of a civil action against the police, civil rights organisations criticised the action of the police. The group Inquest yesterday called for a "thorough and transparent" investigation into the death.

Helen Shaw, co-director of Inquest, said: "We feel the utmost sorrow and anger about the unnecessary death of Jean Charles de Menezes. Serious questions need to be answered about the intelligence and operational processes that ultimately led to his death."

Sir Ian Blair yesterday met 45 Muslim community leaders at Scotland Yard as part of an initiative to establish better procedures for the gathering of intelligence.

Tarique Ghaffur, an assistant commissioner, who chaired the meeting, said: "Sir Ian gave reassurance to the community. He said the only way we are going to fight terrorism is [by] working with the community."

A further two people have been charged over an arson attack on the home of the suicide bomber Germaine Lindsay, in Aylesbury, last Friday. A third man was charged over the weekend in connection with the attack on the house.