Police provide details about capture of bomb suspect

Police described in detail on Monday how they monitored a London bombing suspect’s cellphone calls before arresting him in Rome and said his extradition to Britain would not take long.

Italian police also said the Briton accused by London police of trying to bomb a subway station on July 21 falsified his name and nationality when applying for asylum in Britain years ago.

The suspect, born in Ethiopia as Hamdi Issac, changed his name to Osman Hussain and claimed he was from Somalia when he applied for political asylum, Carlo De Stefano, head of Italy’s anti-terror police, said in the first police briefing since his arrest last Friday.

“He changed his name to Osman Hussain when he arrived in London. He falsely declared he was a Somali citizen to obtain the status of political refugee and economic assistance more easily,” he said.

Italian police began investigating when they were informed by their British counterparts on Tuesday that one of the suspects in the July 21 attempted bombings had fled Britain and had in the past made calls to Italian telephones, De Stefano said.

British police told Italian investigators that the suspect made a phone call to Saudi Arabia, said De Stefano. The phone call was made between Tuesday and Wednesday, and was believed to be aimed at finding out the number for one of the suspect’s brothers in Rome, he said.

Police honed in on a cellphone being used by Hamdi Issac, locating him in Rome on Thursday after discovering that he had replaced the cell phone’s British removable SIM card—which stores an individual’s phone number and other account data—with an Italian one.

On Friday, the day of the arrest, police recorded conversations in which Hamdi Issac talked in Ethiopian dialect used in a border region between Eritrea and Somalia, confirming his identity after sending the recordings to London to be checked, De Stefano said.

The suspect was being held in a Rome prison and was awaiting possible extradition.
“I believe that it won’t take long,” De Stefano told reporters at the Interior Ministry.

Issac was being questioned on Monday by a judge who had to decide whether to bring international terrorism charges.

De Stefano said that the investigation so far indicated that Issac was “part of a loosely knit group rather than a well structured group.”

Also arrested were two of the suspect’s brothers who live in Italy: Remzi Issac, in whose apartment the suspect was hiding; and Fati Issac, picked up Sunday in the northern industrial city of Brescia and accused of destroying or hiding documents sought by investigators.

De Stefano said the brothers were not linked to any terror activity or investigation.

The failed bombings July 21 of three London subway stations and a bus occurred two weeks after the deadly July 7 attacks. There were no casualties in the July 21 attacks.

For years Italian investigators have said that Italy is an important logistics base for terror groups, especially in procuring false travel and identity documents. But recently, authorities have warned of extremist cells in Italy capable of launching an attack.

“This possibility unfortunately exists,” said De Stefano. - Sapa-AP

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