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London Bombing Investigation

July 12, 2005 at 12:00 AM EDT
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ALEX THOMPSON: This afternoon the Metropolitan Police announced that four men, three from West Yorkshire, arrived here at King’s Cross Station by train on the morning of Thursday, July 7. They were filmed by CCTV at the station shortly before 8:30 A.M.

One of the four was reported as missing by his family at about 10 A.M. that Thursday. His property was found at the scene of the exploded Number 30 bus in Tavistock Square.

PETER CLARKE: Property in the name of the second man was found at the scene of the Aldgate bomb. And in relation to a third man, property in his name was found at the scene of both the Aldgate and the Edgware Road bombs.

ALEX THOMPSON: He said very strong forensic and other evidence suggests it’s very likely one of the men from West Yorkshire died in the Aldgate bomb. In short, the police now believe all four men were probably suicide bombers, and they’ve made one arrest — a man in the Leeds area — this morning. He will be taken to London shortly for questioning.

The people are keen to track the movements of the three men from the Leeds area; they say they acted on six search warrants on houses there early this morning. In one case, a remote-controlled handling device was used in a controlled explosion to get in.

MILES HIMSWORTH: Due to the nature of the incident that we’re dealing with, we’ve taken a variety of security and safety precautions, both for the police officers deployed here and for members of the public. Part of that is obviously we’re searching the premises as we speak for explosives and bits and pieces; to ensure the safety of everybody concerned the army are here to assist with that search.

ALEX THOMPSON: Forensic officers from Scotland Yard conducted detailed searches of all the houses. At one location, items were seen bagged up and taken away — a computer in this case. The police said the raids were directly connected to the London bombings and described them as significant.

SIR IAN BLAIR: I think they will be very significant; I hope they will be. They are an intelligence led operation, run by the Metropolitan Police service in our anti-terror role supported by West Yorkshire police.

ALEX THOMPSON: Although a police helicopter quartered the ground over one of the raid sites, the general approach was somewhat low-key, the postman allowed to go through the cordon and go about his business. Several neighbors said people did leave with the police. Others, though, were astonished, describing those who lived in these houses as quiet, friendly, not trouble at all.

MAN: It’s akin to London and other places like, that’s not what you expect in Backwater Burly.

ALEX THOMPSON: From 6:30 AM, five addresses were visited. Stratford Street, in the south Leeds area of Beeston; they later raided 51 Colwyn Road, also in Beeston. Colenso Mount, in the neighboring Holbeck area in south Leeds; Lees Holm, in Dewsbury, near Wakefield, south of Leeds; and Thornhill Park Avenue, just a few minutes walk from Lees Holm, also in Dewsbury.

Further south, the police evacuated Luton Railway Station in Bedfordshire at 2:45 this afternoon. All train movements were halted north and south. The station car park was empty. The police think a car here was connected to the London bombs. A 100-yard cordon was placed around the station in a major operation by Bedfordshire, Metropolitan, and British Transport police, and three controlled explosions were carried out on the suspect vehicle. The police are later hoping to recover it and transport it to a secure location for further tests.

JIM LEHRER: Margaret Warner takes it from there.

MARGARET WARNER: For the latest on this fast-moving investigation, we turn now to Stryker McGuire, the London bureau chief for Newsweek Magazine. Stryker McGuire, welcome. This is a dramatic breakthrough. Tell us what led police to focus on these four men.

STRYKER McGUIRE: Well, you know, it’s funny because this morning a lot of people here in London were wondering how the investigation was going; there was a lot of talk about when people’s patience would run out. And then suddenly by the end of the day, a lot of the pieces have begun to fall together.

What we now know is that in fact they began to fall together right after the explosions occurred. The big breakthrough was that phone call that was referred to in your report, was about 10 o’clock in the morning, and the parents of one of the bombers called up and reported him missing. Obviously, we don’t know how all the pieces were put together, and I think the police are being — they’re being very cautious, they’re being quite deliberate, and until this afternoon it looked like they were going very slowly.

MARGARET WARNER: But, I mean, they must have gotten dozens if not scores, hundreds of calls of people missing. They also said they looked at the closed circuit TV tape and saw these four men, but again they’re looking at hundreds if not thousands of tapes. Are they saying what else led them to zero in this on this particular fellow?

STRYKER McGUIRE: They’re not telling us exactly how they put those pieces together. But if they talked to the parents and then a bit of information came out later through those identity cards, they were probably driver’s licenses or something like that, found near where the explosions took place, they may well have gone back to the parents, asked more questions. Then they would have a sense of who the people were, then they would find out presumably what they looked like; they would be looking at photographs.

Then as they were going through those hundreds, perhaps thousands of hours of CCTV footage, they would know much more about what they were looking for, and I think that what happened is that there was kind of a snowball effect and that everything started falling together and they, to the point that today they had to make an announcement because of all of the activity up in the north of England, raiding houses including in one case having to blow the door of a house wide open.

MARGARET WARNER: Now, in the briefing today from Scotland Yard, which we could see here as well, they said they could only confirm or they thought that it was likely from forensic evidence that at least one of the bombers died, but all of the reports, including our own ITN report, was saying they think now all were suicide bombers. Is that what your own reporting is showing from police sources?

STRYKER McGUIRE: It is. It is. I mean, what the police are doing is they’re again being very cautious. They’re saying officially what they know to be 100 percent true. They’re doing some hinting and winking and nodding, they’re not denying reports that are coming out, so that as the journalists in a sense are putting together the case the way the police did, and so you now have the media here saying it’s four suicide bombers, although the police are not officially saying that. And I think that’s probably important to remember. But at the same time, the police are not knocking down those stories.

MARGARET WARNER: Now, what more have they learned or has the press learned, I assume the press is now swarming all over these neighborhoods, about these four men? Were they British born, were they Muslims, what kind of neighborhood was this they were from?

STRYKER McGUIRE: Well, they were from several neighborhoods. They were mostly Muslim neighborhoods. And you’ll note that the police again have been very careful. They haven’t said anything about the ethnic or racial or religious background, they haven’t said anything about the age, at least officially.

What we do know is that they appear to be between the age of about 19 and 22 years old. They come from different neighborhoods in and around Leeds. These are mostly Muslim neighborhoods. And we don’t really know much about the families of these individuals yet, although I expect, now that there’s been all this activity up there, I would assume that a lot of the people in those neighborhoods know precisely who these individuals are, and you already have the kind of reports that you always get in these sorts of cases where people say this is very surprising. He seems so quiet, et cetera, et cetera.

MARGARET WARNER: Like such a nice young man – yes -

STRYKER McGUIRE: Exactly.

MARGARET WARNER: Now what about the one man also who was arrested, any information on him, the one they say they’re bringing to London for questioning?

STRYKER McGUIRE: Just that he’s a relative of one of the bombers, and that’s about all we know.

MARGARET WARNER: Now, you’re right, they did come from different neighborhoods, but at least three of the four were around Leeds.

STRYKER McGUIRE: Yes.

MARGARET WARNER: Is Leeds a significant center of the Muslim community in Britain? Is it known to be particularly radical? How would you characterize it?

STRYKER McGUIRE: Well, it certainly is, it’s one of the, it’s one of England’s and therefore Britain’s of course major cities. And like all big British conurbations, it has a large Muslim population.

Leeds is not, you know, it’s not known to produce radicals, I mean, any more than any other city in London is. I think it’s, you know, obviously most Muslim communities in Britain, as elsewhere, are ordinary, like the rest of us. And I think it’s comparable say to Northern Ireland, where most Catholics and Protestants go about their lives in a perfectly normal way, but there are extremists in their midst. And those extremists come out of obviously fertile ground for recruiters, and that’s what must have happened in Leeds if indeed, you know what the police say is true.

MARGARET WARNER: And finally just briefly, what more can you tell us about the nature of the explosives actually used? There were some reports in the American press today that police now think it was a little more sophisticated than they originally thought.

STRYKER McGUIRE: Yes. They were originally, I think, concentrating on the supposed weight of the explosives. They were fairly light, compared say to what was used in Madrid. But they do appear to be fairly sophisticated. The explosives used in Madrid were commercially available explosives. From what we know from various sources, these explosives here appear to be military grade, possibly at C4, which is a kind of plastic explosive, although that is certainly not been confirmed.

MARGARET WARNER: Stryker McGuire, Newsweek Magazine, London bureau chief, thank you so much.

STRYKER McGUIRE: Thanks.