London's unremarkable bombers

The four British Muslims who carried out the London bombings a year ago remain to this day remarkable for having been, in many ways, unremarkable.

Their extremist views were little known, and their violent intentions even less so, as Home Secretary John Reid pointed out when an official report was released on Britain’s worst brush with terrorism to date.

Yet Britain was mourning their lethal handiwork on Friday, paying tribute to the dead on the first anniversary of the attacks that killed more than 50 people and injured about 700 more.

Mohammad Sidique Khan (30), Shahzad Tanweer (22) and Hasid Hussain (18) were all Britons of Pakistani heritage, from Leeds in northern England. Devout Muslims, they exhibited no outward signs of extremism.

Germaine Lindsay (19), a carpet-fitter who was born in Jamaica but came as an infant with his mother to Britain, where he grew up, converted to Islam at the age of 15.

Married with one child at the time of the attacks—his wife, a white British convert to Islam, was pregnant with a second—he is the only one who police think may have been influenced by extremist preachers.

Khan studied at Leeds university, as did Tanweer. Married with a young daughter, Khan worked with troubled children for several years, earning the appreciation of both his young charges and their parents.

The only sign that might have caused alarm were the talks that he gave in the basement of a mosque in the Beeston district of Leeds—a venue nicknamed the “al-Qaeda gym” by the local ethnic Pakistani community.

Tanweer worked in his family’s fish-and-chip shop and lived with his parents.

He reappeared on Thursday in a videotape—aired on British television and apparently compiled in the past five weeks—in which he said, in a northern English accent: “What have you witnessed now is only the beginning of a string of attacks that will continue and become stronger.”

Khan and Tanweer, with possible but unconfirmed links to Osama bin Laden’s shadowy al-Qaeda network, spent time together in Pakistan, between November 2004 and February 2005.

Little is known about Hasid Hussain, a soft-spoken high-school student who also lived with his parents, apart from the fact that he once wrote “al-Qaeda no limits” in a copybook. He also regarded the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks in the United States in 2001 as martyrs.

The July 7 bombings in the British capital were apparently self-financed and carefully prepared. The bomb ingredients were purchased in late March and a dry run to London was carried out nine days before the attacks.

In all, the deadliest terrorist operation in British history, including the four 2,5kg rucksack bombs and travel abroad, were estimated to have cost something in the region of £8 000 (about R105 000). Khan, the oldest in the group, put up most of the money.

Nothing on the eve of the attacks raised suspicions; indeed, Tanweer was seen quietly playing cricket in a local park.

As for motives, they were summed up in an edited tape featuring Khan, telecast on the Arabic satellite news channel al-Jazeera, that emerged nearly two months after the bombings.

“Our drive and motivation doesn’t come from tangible commodities that this world has to offer. Our religion is Islam, obedience to the one true God and following the footsteps of the final prophet messenger,” Khan was heard saying.

“Your democratically elected governments continuously perpetuate atrocities against my people all over the world—and your support of them makes you directly responsible, just as I am directly responsible for protecting and avenging my Muslim brothers and sisters.

“Until we feel security you will be our targets, and until you stop the bombing, gassing, imprisonment and torture of my people we will not stop this fight. We are at war and I am a soldier. Now you, too, will taste the reality of this situation.”—AFP

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