London bombings: Blair asks Muslim leaders to combat terror
LONDON – Prime Minister Tony Blair appealed to Muslim leaders on Tuesday to combat the “twisted logic” of terrorism and offered to help them counter extremism with reason. In a show of vigilance, police deployed dogs for the first time to sniff out explosives on London’s Underground.The developments in London came as police in Pakistan focused their investigation on the eastern city of Lahore, rounding up seven Islamic militants linked to al-Qaida and suspected of having ties with the British suicide bombers. And in Cairo, the Egyptian government said a detained chemist wanted for questioning by Britain had no links to the attacks or to al-Qaida.British officials were also examining whether bomber Jermaine Lindsay, a Jamaican-born Briton, used perfume bottles to make his bomb deadlier. The explosions on three subways and a double-decker bus in London killed at least 56 people.Asked about the inquiry into the July 7 attacks by Lindsay and three other bombers, Ian Blair, chief of the Metropolitan police, said key questions remain, including: “Who is the chemist? Who are the people who trained them? Who facilitated their trip to Pakistan?””Whoever is doing that is still out there,” the police chief told a meeting of Christians, Muslims and Jews that was attended by The Associated Press.Fearful of another attack since accomplices of the bombers or a mastermind may be at large, British Transport Police dispatched dogs Tuesday to search for explosives on the London Underground.Dogs have been used before on the train that connects Heathrow airport to the capital, but police said this was the first time they were being sent into the subway system.Tony Blair met with two dozen representatives of the Muslim community to discuss anti-terror legislation the government plans to introduce by year’s end. The leaders fear the laws target their community.”It’s fair the government should ask itself whether policies such as those involving the Iraq war have contributed to this,” said Dr. Zaki Badawi, head of the Muslim College. “We need a partnership between government and Muslims to show people they are not being ignored and that their concerns will be heard.”The prime minister denied any link between the Iraq war, which was opposed by many Britons, and the attacks in London. He insisted that terrorists will always find an excuse to kill – and promised action to uproot their “perverted ideology.””Of course these terrorists will use Iraq as an excuse. They will use Afghanistan,” Blair said at a news conference after meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.”Sept. 11, of course, happened before both of these things, and then the excuse was American policy, or Israel. They will always have their reasons for acting,” Blair said. “But we have got to be really careful of almost giving in to the sort of perverted and twisted logic with which they argue.”Karzai agreed.”There is no link,” Karzai said. “They are simply merchants of death.”The rugged border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan is thought to be a hiding place for al-Qaida and Islamic extremists.In Pakistan, police said they were holding seven Islamic militants with possible links to the London suicide bombers.Three of the London suspects – Hasib Hussain, 18, Mohammed Sidique Khan, 30, and Shahzad Tanweer, 22, all Britons of Pakistani descent – traveled to Karachi in southern Pakistan last year.Pakistani security officials said they believe Tanweer spent a few days at a religious school in Lahore, an eastern city where many militant groups have clandestine operations.Lahore is the capital of Punjab province, where five of the detained men were picked up in recent days, Pakistani officials said. The two others were caught overnight in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province.Police officials in Pakistan said the seven men were from two outlawed militant groups, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Jaish-e-Mohammed. Both are lined to al-Qaida, and some of their supporters have been arrested for trying to assassinate President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.Investigators are trying to establish whether the bombers received training, encouragement or other aid from extremists in Pakistan, or even if the plot was hatched there.The Times of London reported that the three suspects may have traveled to Karachi to meet with a British-born mastermind who plotted the London attacks. The paper did not name the alleged leader.Pakistan is not the only foreign country Khan apparently visited. In Jerusalem, an Israeli security official confirmed Tuesday that Khan went to Israel in 2003.The Israeli official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the nature of his work, did not elaborate. But the Israeli daily Maariv reported Sunday that Israeli security officials believe Khan was among the planners of an April 30, 2003 suicide bombing on a Tel Aviv bar which killed three people and wounded 60.Another focus of the investigation has been Magdy el-Nashar, an Egyptian chemist who obtained a doctorate from Leeds University this year.Authorities in Cairo detained el-Nashar last week at the request of the British government, which suspects he has links to some of the four bombers, three of whom are from Leeds, north of London.Egyptian government spokesman Magdy Rady said Tuesday an Interior Ministry report “made clear that there is no link between Egyptian chemist Magdy el-Nashar with al-Qaida or the bombings.”Scotland Yard declined to comment.Investigators are trying to determine what material was used in the four bombs.Lindsay, the Jamaican-born bomber who lived in Luton, apparently bought hundreds of dollars worth of perfume before the attacks. He may have hoped the alcohol would fuel the explosion and the metal perfume bottles would be transformed into shrapnel in the blast.His bank became suspicious even before the attacks and hired a private firm to examine his finances, said detective Noel Hogan, managing director of Hogan and Co. Intl. Hogan told The Associated Press that one of the purchases he examined was a large amount of perfume. He said the company contacted police once Lindsay’s name was publicly linked to the attacks.Scotland Yard again refused to comment.The New York Times reported Tuesday that a panel of British intelligence and law enforcement officials had played down the possibility of an attack less than a month before it occurred.The newspaper said it had obtained a confidential threat report by the Joint Terrorist Analysis Center that prompted the government to lower its assessment of the likelihood of an attack one level, from “severe defined” to “substantial.” But the report suggested Iraq was acting as a “motivation and a focus of a range of terrorist related activity.”Also Tuesday, a statement in the name of a group that claimed responsibility for the London bombings threatened to launch “a bloody war” on the capitals of European countries that do not remove their troops from Iraq within a month.The authenticity of the statement – which surfaced on an Islamic Web site known as a clearing house for extremist material – could not be verified.The group, Abu Hafs al Masri Brigades, has claimed responsibility for events in which it clearly did not play any role, such as the 2003 blackouts in the United States and London that resulted from technical problems.—Associated Press writers Catherine McAloon in London, and Zarar Khan and Asif Shahzad in Pakistan contributed to this report.