Photo: AP
Photo: AP
Terror suspect linked to Madrid attacks
Photo: AP

Students nabbed, al-Qaeda chiefs hunted

Reports say search for Mohammed al-Gerbouzi, who has also been linked to terrorist attacks in Madrid and Casablanca; two university students arrested on suspicion of working with terrorists

LONDON - British security personnel have tightened Saturday their dragnet of suspects involved in the London terror attack that occurred two days before. 


Among the first targets of the ongoing investigation is the Muslim and Asian populations of the city.


The London-based, Arabic-language newspaper "Al-Hayat" reported that two Asian brothers, students at the University of London, were arrested on suspicion that they took part in the attack. Counter-terrorism forces raided their homes and conducted a search of the premises.


But the two college students were not the only ones arrested. Dozens of Muslims, many of them British citizens, were taken into custody in the last two days and interrogated.


At the same time, London police have called upon the public to keep an eye out for suspicious activity.


But all this is just a fishing expedition.


Going after the sharks


The real hunt is being conducted for two suspected al-Qaeda terrorists believed to be involved in the chain of bombings that hit the city.


The British newspapers have mentioned two names.


The first is Mustafa Nasser, a 49-year-old Syrian who lived in London from 1995-1998 and knows the city well. The other is Mohammed al-Gerbouzi, a Moroccan and long-term al-Qaeda activist who lived in London for 10 years and is a described as "the spiritual leader of the mujahiddin in Britain."


The British newspaper "The Independent" reported that Scotland Yard and MI5 called upon European intelligence agencies to help catch al-Gerbouzi, who is already associated with the Madrid and Casablanca attacks.


A spokeswoman for Europol, the European police information exchange agency, refused to confirm or deny a request has been made, adding merely: "We are providing information and intelligence to the UK authorities." 


The North African, a British resident for 16 years, has been accused by French and German security services of connections with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born leader of the insurgent group in Iraq connected to al-Qaeda, which murdered British hostage Ken Bigley.


He is also an associate of Abu Qatada, one of the detainees released from Belmarsh in March this year. Mr. Qatada was described by a British judge as a "truly dangerous" individual and by a Spanish judge as "Osama bin Laden's ambassador in Europe."


Links to Madrid bombings


The Moroccan government has made several attempts to have 45-year-old al-Gerbouzi, who they claim is the head of an organization called the Group of Islamic Combatants, sent back to Morocco. Evidence later presented before a Moroccan court claimed he helped the Casablanca bombers obtain false passports and money.


The British government has denied the Moroccan request because there is no extradition treaty between the two countries. The Home Office has also said the Moroccan authorities failed to produce adequate evidence to justify an arrest.


Morocco has presented further evidence to Scotland Yard. But al-Gerbouzi had, by then, disappeared from his council flat in Kilburn, northwest London. He said he had been questioned by MI5 agents but denied any connections with terrorism.


In March last year, Spanish detectives investigating the bombing of commuter trains that killed 191 people, said that one of the suspects, Moroccan called Jamal Zougham, 31, made telephone calls to a landline and mobile telephone line in London belonging to al-Gerbouzi.


Speaking to Al Jazeera television Saturday, al-Gerbouzi declared his innocence and denied that he was on the run.


"I affirm that I am not in hiding or on the run and the British police are not looking for me because they know where I live and my address," he told the Arabic-language station.


He denied a connection to the Madrid train bombings, noting "that there is no official accusation against me from Spanish authorities about any event." 


Small, coordinated blasts


Scotland Yard Commission Sir Ian Blair said that the attacks in London had "all the hallmarks of al-Qaeda."  Police noted that the three subway bombs blew up within seconds of each other, but aside from that, the authorities said they lacked claer indications of who was responsible.


The key factor the police and MI5 have to ascertain is whether the bombers were "home-grown" or foreigners. The bombs used, all under 10 lbs, were likely to have been carried in rucksacks.

Explosives expert Andy Oppenheimer, of Jane's Information Group, said: "These could have been home-made devices, they would not have been difficult to make.”


British police said the bodies of 49 people had been recovered, but warned that the number of deaths would rise. Some 700 people were injured in the bombings; dozens remain hospitalized in serious condition.


'50 Israelis have not made contact'


Meanwhile, Israeli officials said they are gravely concerned about the fate of Anat Rosenberg, a woman who has been missing since Thursday’s terror offensive in London.


“The fears are very grave after her British boyfriend reported she was apparently on board the bus that exploded in Russell Square,” an official in Jerusalem said Friday evening.


Foreign Ministry officials said they received hundreds of inquires regarding Israelis who have not made contact with families and friends in the wake of the attacks.


“There are still 50 Israelis who have not yet made contact,” one source said. “However, this (the missing woman) is in our view the only case that arouses grave concerns.”


פרסום ראשון: 07.09.05, 11:38
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