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2 Suspects in London Attacks Identified

Police raid a flat linked to at least one of the fugitives suspected in last week's attempted bombings. They again appeal for public's help.

July 26, 2005|Sebastian Rotella and Ralph Frammolino | Times Staff Writers

LONDON — Police disclosed the names of two fugitives Monday who are wanted on suspicion of trying to bomb a bus and subway train last week and stormed an apartment in a North London housing project where neighbors said they had frequently seen the two men.

Scotland Yard's announcement indicated that police were making some progress as they raced to prevent further attacks in a city on edge, but they appealed again for the public's help in finding four would-be bombers who remained at large. Investigators believe the plot, in which bombs carried onto three Underground trains and a bus failed to fully explode, was a follow-up to a July 7 strike that killed 52 people.

The developments seemed to reinforce the theory that Thursday's failed bombings were carried out by a cell that included suspects with African backgrounds.

Police raided an apartment about 2 a.m. Monday that they linked to the suspect they believe tried to bomb a double-decker bus.

Later in the day, Scotland Yard identified the suspect as Muktar Said Ibrahim, 27, also known as Muktar Mohamed Said. Just before the attempted bombing, a security camera on the bus captured an image of Said wearing a baseball-style cap, a T-shirt with a palm-tree motif, and a dark jacket, police said. Police also provided a second picture of him that they said came from an identity document.

Police named the second assailant as Yasin Hassan Omar, 24. He is a dark-skinned man who wore a blue shirt when he was filmed from above by a security camera shortly before he tried to detonate a knapsack bomb on a subway train near the Warren Street Station, police said.

Police did not reveal the men's nationalities or other details.

Said "was associated with and has recently visited" the apartment building in North London that police stormed early Monday, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke said.

But as children and curious residents milled outside the public housing complex later in the day, a woman and her daughter said they recognized Said and Omar from photographs released by authorities.

The fugitives either lived in or regularly visited a unit on the top floor of the Curtis House tenement during the last two years, said neighbor Sammy Jones, 33. The apartment tower is one of four boxy, run-down buildings tucked next to a laminated-flooring warehouse in an otherwise upscale neighborhood.

Jones and her 14-year-old daughter, Leanna, who live on the third floor, described Omar as Somali and Said as a heavy-set man with Indian features and short, curly hair. She said that of four men they saw going to the top-floor apartment, Said was the only one to wear traditional attire.

"He used to wear a white cloth on his head," she said.

Two others, whom she described as a Somali and a Jamaican or African named George, lived in the apartment, Jones said. The group used to come and go at all hours and did not appear to have jobs, she said. About three or four weeks ago, she added, she watched the men carry about 50 heavy boxes into the building elevator from a car.

"I asked, 'What you doing?' " Jones said. "They said it was wallpaper stripper. I didn't think anything of it."

Jones, a homemaker, said she immediately recognized Omar from the photos released by police. She said she wasn't sure it was Said until she saw the new photo Monday of the suspect police say tried to bomb the bus.

"I didn't recognize [him] until they showed a clear photo on the telly," she said.

Said often left the complex between 8 and 9 p.m. to catch a bus heading in the direction of the Wood Green shopping district about a mile away, an area offering a mix of trendy shops and kabob restaurants, Jones said. Said and "George" would greet neighbors cheerfully, she said.

"They were quite friendly blokes," Jones said.

Omar and the other Somali were much more reserved, often giving neighbors only a silent nod, Jones and her daughter said.

The profile of the group seems consistent with an investigation that has focused on suspects with apparent ties to Africa, particularly Somalia and Ethiopia, although it is not clear whether they are immigrants or native Britons.

Three men, one described as being of Ethiopian descent, were arrested over the weekend in South London, a largely African and Afro-Caribbean area. The three are being held under anti-terrorism laws.

In the deadly July 7 attacks, three of the suicide bombers and several suspects allegedly involved in the plot were middle-class Pakistani Britons living in northern England. The fourth dead bomber was a Jamaican convert to Islam living north of London. Police suspect that the July 7 plot and last week's were linked by contacts among the Britain-based suspects and by a larger network overseen in Pakistan.

A British anti-terrorism official said Pakistani leaders had collaborated in previous plots with operatives of East African or Afro-Caribbean descent.

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