Last 3 of 4 suspects in failed attacks held

Two arrested in London, one in Rome completes tally in failed attacks

LETTA TAYLER Newsday
Section: Main,  Page: A1

Date: Saturday, July 30, 2005

LONDON - In dramatic, bloodless raids, police in London and Rome said they captured the last of four alleged bombers in last week's botched mass-transit attacks Friday and reportedly were seeking the extradition of a suspect in the July 7 blasts.


The arrests - including one in which police ended a tense standoff by lobbing gas canisters into a flat near fashionable Notting Hill - represented another coup in Britain's breakneck hunt for home-grown terrorists. But authorities warned that the masterminds, and perhaps other terror cells, could still be on the loose. "We must not be complacent," said Peter Clarke, head of Scotland Yard's anti-terrorist division. "The threat remains and is very real."


The most dramatic arrests were near Notting Hill in West London, when heavily armed police in gas masks and balaclavas swooped in on two suspected bombers.


In Rome, Italian police working with British authorities seized a third alleged bomber, Osman Hussain, a Somali-born Briton. Hussain, who was traced through his cellphone calls, had fled to Rome via Paris and Milan and was arrested in a hotel lounge. Italian authorities also were questioning his brother, who lives in Rome.


British authorities had arrested the first of the four bombing suspects - Yasin Hassan Omar - two days earlier in the northern city of Birmingham after shooting him with a stun gun.


London police Friday also seized a man in a second West London apartment building who reportedly may have been enlisted to be a fifth July 21 attacker. A bomb believed intended for that attack was found several days ago in a shrub near where the raids occurred Friday.


At least three of the four suspects are British naturalized citizens or long-term residents from Somalia or Eritrea.


Scotland Yard declined to comment on the arrest in Zambia of a British man sought in connection with the July 7 bombings. British investigators reportedly believe Haroon Rashid Aswat, 31, had been in telephone contact with some of the four suicide attackers.


According to The Associated Press , Aswat told investigators he once was a guard for Osama bin Laden, Zambian security officials said.


The most dramatic of Friday's raids were at a vast, West London apartment complex where scores of residents, some crying in fear or dressed only in nightclothes, were evacuated before police engaged in an hours-long standoff with two suspects.


"Mohammed! Take your clothes off! Come out with your hands on your head!" neighbors quoted police as shouting to one suspect.


"I have rights!" the man screamed back.


Later, neighbors said, the man protested that he was scared to come out in his underwear. "How do I know you're not going to shoot me?" he asked in a voice that one neighbor said sounded petrified and as if he were fighting tears.


Police eventually lobbed gas canisters and perhaps stun grenades into the fourth-floor apartment. The devices exploded with loud bangs and with such force that one tenant living next to the suspects was thrown across a room, a neighbor said. The two suspects then emerged shirtless on a balcony, rubbing their eyes and blowing their noses, apparently as a result of the gas. Police led one man out in a white, head-to-toe jumpsuit to preserve forensic evidence.


The man named Mohammed was believed to be Ramzi Mohammed, the bombing suspect caught before and after the Oval Tube station bombing in a "New York" sweatshirt. Shocked neighbors said he was a very friendly man in his mid-30s who worked as a city bus driver - not on a route targeted in the attacks - and had lived in the building for more than a year.


"It really scares me to think I was lying in my bed and they might have been making bombs next door," said Nina Wilson, 18, a next-door neighbor.


The other bomb suspect arrested in the flat was believed to be Muktar Said Ibrahim, 27, a naturalized British citizen from Eritrea.


The third, unidentified suspect was seized in a nearby building after police also lobbed gas or stun grenades into his flat. One neighbor said he saw a man sprint across the building's courtyard before police wrestled him to the ground and handcuffed him.


In related news, according to wire reports:


Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf conceded that his crackdown on religious extremists had been restrained, but said he now feels strong enough to launch a far more effective campaign.


As part of the renewed crackdown, Musharraf said that leaders of banned extremists would be arrested and that foreign stu dents studying at madrassas, or religious schools, in Pakistan, will be ordered to leave the country.


Following the London bombings, Musharraf launched a third crackdown on extremists in as many years. In the new crackdown, hundreds of people have been detained, including people accused of publishing extremist materials and preaching hatred in mosques.


The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution expanding U.N. sanctions against al-Qaida and the Taliban to their affiliates and splinter groups and clamping down on terrorist financing.


Egypt's top Islamic cleric, Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi, delivered a fierce sermon against terrorism at the main mosque in Sharm el-Sheik, the Red Sea resort struck in deadly bombings a week ago.