Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Failed hit in London tied to East Africans

Paul Martin:

Police investigating last week's failed bomb attacks said yesterday the devices were built and laid by a sleeper cell of East Africans and that they believe the men were acting on instructions from al Qaeda.

Authorities are combing through the records of thousands of asylum-seekers and refugees within the Somali, Kenyan, Eritrean and Ethiopian communities in the British capital. It would be the first time Islamic militants from East Africa have played a conspicuous role in terror cells in Europe.

Police on Monday said Muktar Said Ibrahim, 27, had tried to detonate a bomb on Thursday on a double-decker bus and that Yasin Hassan Omar, 24, had staged a failed attack on the Underground system's Northern Line.

Yesterday, they identified the two as being from Eritrea and Somalia, respectively, and said both arrived in Britain with their parents in 1992.

Government sources said almost no one seeking asylum from the long-running conflicts in the Horn of Africa had been turned away, even in cases where they were not granted official refugee status. A large refugee community, made up mainly of Somalis, has developed in London.

Ibrahim and Omar are still on the run, along with two other would-be bombers whose pictures were captured on closed-circuit television, and whose names are also known to the police but have not been released. An unknown fifth man is believed to have abandoned a similar explosive device near another train line.

Five others are under arrest on suspicion of being connected to the bomb plot. Four men who killed 52 persons in a similar plot on July 7 died in the explosions.

Thursday's failed bombers were reported to be regular worshippers at a radical mosque in north London.

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