Search for Clues
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JIM LEHRER: Two searches are underway in London, four days after the bombings: The search for the perpetrators and the search for those still missing. We begin our coverage with a report from Simon Israel of Independent Television News.
SIMON ISRAEL: "Do not expect any quick breakthroughs in the hunt for the bombers" was the message from one home office minister today, not to be found among the sympathetic tributes left by relatives and well-wishers in a corner of King’s Cross Station. It was emphasized again by the metropolitan police commissioner Sir Ian Blair this afternoon when he came to lay his own wreath in this tiny garden.
SIR IAN BLAIR: We’ve already collected two and a half thousand CCTV tapes. We have 2,000 calls to the anti-terrorist hotline. We’ve had 115,000 calls to the casualty bureau. We will do all of it and we will do it right. And we will do it meticulously. These people will be caught.
SIMON ISRAEL: At MI5 headquarters, it’s been described as a quiet grind with no sense of panic. Channel 4 News understands that requests for information have been fired off around the world, and in the UK, many of those deemed to be associated with Islamic extremist groups have been visited by MI5 agents.
But there’s a denial of a scattergun approach to an inquiry that’s started from virtually nothing and must wait patiently for forensic analysis of the four bombs to shed light on this huge investigation.
SPOKESMAN: One of the key focuses of the investigation will be to get as many bits of the bomb as possible; some fragments of the bomb will have survived and that will not only be the explosives, it will also be the timer, the detonator and it will also be the container.
Whatever carrier bag or work sack it was in, fragments of that will have survived. If the police can find these fragments and identify them — that will help with the CCTV search and it will help with other aspects of the investigation.
SIMON ISRAEL: Work on the bus and Tavistock Square grinds on as well. Police have asked mobile phone companies to examine their records to see what calls were made from that spot before the explosion tore the Number 30 apart, killing 13 people. The notion it was the work of a suicide bomber still has not been discounted.
And underground at Russell Square, there are plans to move some of the train carriages out of the tunnel tomorrow.
SPOKESMAN: The conditions have improved. There’s better ventilation. The temperature is down today and work is progressing a lot quicker.
SPOKESMAN: We carry on with our lives. I don’t think we ever stop thinking about it.
SIMON ISRAEL: London attempted to return to some semblance of normality today, its mayor trying to hammer home the message it was business as usual, while at the same time the intelligence service’s Joint Terrorism Analysis Center has raised the UK threat level to its highest ever.
JIM LEHRER: Penny Marshall of Independent Television News reports on the search for the missing.
PENNY MARSHALL: On a pavement in central London, a mother has come to cry for her child.
MOTHER: This, this is Anthony…my son, 26 years old. He’s missing. I need to know what happened to my Anthony. He’s the love of my life, my first son, my first love.
PENNY MARSHALL: Anthony has not been seen since last Thursday. Today in her anguish his mother appealed to a modern world where terrorists kill.
MOTHER: Terrorism is not the way, it is not the way. It doesn’t beget peace.
PENNY MARSHALL: Other relatives of the missing made quieter pilgrimages. This family has just heard that their relative’s driving license has been found in the debris of the bombed bus. Philip Russell was 29.
WOMAN: We all still love Philip. And he’s always going to be in our hearts. And, you know, you just stick together as a family. Human nature allows you to carry on because you have to, because you have got another generation to bring up and you’ve got another generation to teach good and bad.
PENNY MARSHALL: The relatives who felt shut out by the authorities before have now been visited by police liaison officers as the reality of their situation and their waiting becomes obvious.
If not knowing is agony, finding out at this late stage is likely to extinguish all hope, for the delays are probably caused by the problems police are having with identification. It’s left relatives frustrated and angry. Today their pain was acknowledged by the prime minister.
TONY BLAIR: In previous terrorist attacks of a similar kind in other countries, mistakes have been made which are incredibly distressing. The effect of a bomb is to make identification sometimes very, very hard and harrowing.
I wish it could be quicker, but I think the only wise course is to follow precisely the advice of coroner and police, and that is what we will do.
PENNY MARSHALL: So for the relatives and friends of these missing, the waiting must go on.
JIM LEHRER: And earlier this evening, Gwen Ifill talked with Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post in London about the investigation.
GWEN IFILL: Craig Whitlock, welcome and thanks for joining us. Is there any progress to report so far in this investigation, any arrests made?
CRAIG WHITLOCK: There were three arrests made on Sunday, but those — there were three men who were arrested at Heathrow Airport coming in to the United Kingdom, but all were released later that day. And other than that, officials here say they have identified no suspects, they have made no other arrests, and that they are not looking for anyone in particular. They have not identified the people who they were looking for.
Now, certainly there’s an enormous investigation going on in which they are running through dozens and dozens of names of potential people who have been on watch lists, both here in Britain and in Europe. But so far, there are no names that have surfaced that police here say are reliable, bona fide suspects.
GWEN IFILL: Does this mean that they have some ideas and they’re just not sharing them, or have they been able to settle on any ideas even?
CRAIG WHITLOCK: Well, that could be. They could have things obviously that they aren’t sharing with us. And in fact, they’ve told us there are things that they’ve found out from the forensic investigation.
For instance, they know what kind of explosive was used and they won’t let that out in public. But, you know, the officials do say that they have not identified any suspects at this point. Tony Blair spoke publicly today and said that we have an idea that Islamic extremists were behind this bombing, but they still don’t know who planned it, who carried it out and who was the brains behind it.
GWEN IFILL: And when Tony Blair says something like that, that Islamic extremists are behind this bombing, do we think he’s talking about al-Qaida in the traditional sense that we have come to use that term here in the United States, or are we talking about a more scattered, less hierarchical kind of group?
CRAIG WHITLOCK: Well, that’s a real good question. I think it’s probably not al-Qaida in the traditional sense, where you had, you know, an operation that was conceived and directed by Osama bin Laden or people at his level in Afghanistan or Pakistan or wherever they might be.
This is an al-Qaida today that is much less hierarchical, that is in a more much amorphous network, mostly with local cells that receive some sort of inspiration but perhaps also some direction from, you know, a central network that is affiliated or directed by al-Qaida. But that’s a very good question.
Investigators here really don’t know. They presume that it was a local group or some local network that carried this out that had some sort of ties or at least inspiration from al-Qaida, but they’re just guessing at this point.
GWEN IFILL: Well, in the guessing game there have been some reports that officials in Spain had notified Scotland Yard sometime ago of the potential for some activity. What do you know about that?
CRAIG WHITLOCK: That’s true, Gwen. I mean, in Spain the officials there who… their intelligence agencies did notify Scotland Yard some four months ago that there was a particular individual named Mustafa Setmariam Nasar who is someone the Justice Department has a $5 million reward for. He’s a Syrian native with Spanish nationality who has been missing since Sept. 11. Nobody knows where he is.
And what the Spanish intelligence agencies told their counterparts in Britain was that we’re hearing reports or intelligence that this man may be possibly interested in targeting Britain somehow, but it was very vague.
And you know, the idea that this Nasar fellow was looking at targets in Britain or everywhere else is probably not something that unusual. This is a fellow who, again, you know, the Justice Department even has a $5 million reward for. And he’s known to be a pretty hardcore al-Qaida affiliate.
But he’s also someone who had lived in Britain in the late 1990s. So it wasn’t a very specific notification, and they don’t know that this man had anything to do with the attacks last week. It’s just, again, more speculation on the part of investigators that he’s someone who they should try and find out more about and see if he had any contacts with anyone that might lead them somewhere.
GWEN IFILL: Well, some of the speculation seems to go right to the top. Today we heard speeches by both Tony Blair and President Bush in which they talked about potential links to bombings in Madrid and Istanbul and Casablanca. Is there anything that Scotland Yard is telling anyone yet to confirm those kinds of links?
CRAIG WHITLOCK: Well, Scotland Yard is not, except when — they are not making the direct links to Madrid or Casablanca or these other bombings, but the way that this bombing took place, and so far what has come out of the investigation, it does fit a pattern that has emerged since Sept. 11 in Europe and North Africa and parts of the Middle East, in terms of having attacks that were, again, directed or inspired somehow by al-Qaida.
And that pattern, you can describe it in many ways like this. There are…al-Qaida’s signature, I guess you could call it, is to have multiple bombing attacks in a simultaneous manner. As here in London, there were three bombs that went off in the subway within 50 seconds of each other, during the morning rush hour and on the public transportation system. This is almost exactly what happened in Madrid. So people here, of course, don’t think that’s a coincidence necessarily.
GWEN IFILL: Have the investigators determined at all that whether any of these bombs that went off near simultaneously or at least within the same hour, including the bus attack, that they were suicide bombs?
CRAIG WHITLOCK: They’ve said there is no evidence that there were suicide bombers. And it seems pretty clear that the three bombs on the subway were not done by suicide bombers. There’s no evidence of that. They said the bags that contained the bombs were left on the floor of the subway cars. They think that timers were involved to set them off.
And, again, there’s no evidence that any witnesses or anybody saw any suicide bombers, or that, you know, their bodies were recovered. Now, there’s a bit of a mystery going on with what happened at the bus, because, of course, that bomb went off almost an hour later, and investigators again think that it’s conceivable that the bomber may have died in that attack, but that perhaps it was an accident, that he didn’t mean for the bomb to go off at that point; he didn’t mean to die.
But again, they aren’t sure. They’re still piecing together the forensic evidence at the crime scene to figure that out, if one of the dead people was, in fact, the bomber or not. But they have said pretty specifically that they don’t think it was intended to be a suicide attack.
GWEN IFILL: Okay. Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post, thanks a lot.
CRAIG WHITLOCK: Thank you.