Monday, August 14, 2006

Homegrown terrorists puzzle Britain - Yahoo! News

By JILL LAWLESS, Associated Press Writers Fri Aug 11, 5:33 PM ET

LONDON - One was an athletic teenager who had grown into a devout young man, another a soccer-loving convert to Islam. The youngest was 17, the oldest 35. Many were born in Britain and all were reared here.

As police held 23 young British Muslims accused of plotting devastating airline bombings, both the authorities and their neighbors sought Friday to understand how ordinary communities spawned a terrifying plot.

Police had arrested 24 people but late Friday Scotland Yard said one person was released without charge. It did not identify the person released.

Authorities have not identified suspects, but 19 names were made public Friday by the Treasury after the government froze their bank accounts. They have names of Muslim origin, including many that are common in Pakistan. At least 14 live in London, four in leafy High Wycombe, 30 miles away, and two in the central city of Birmingham.

It is unclear how the men met or who the ringleader is, although suspicion has fallen on the only one identified who is over 30 — Shamin Mohammed Uddin, 35, of east London.

The father of three of the arrested men, Faisal Hussain, collapsed into tears, telling Britain's ITV News that his sons — Nabeel, Umair and Mehran — weren't involved any plot.

"They went to prayer and they were Muslims, that is the only thing they were guilty of," he said through an interpreter in an interview broadcast Friday.

At least nine of the suspects lived in Walthamstow, a typically polyglot London neighborhood of modest brick houses and small apartment blocks, halal butchers, pubs and fast-food restaurants. It is an ethnically mixed community with a smattering of affluent professionals and a large Muslim population served by several mosques.

"Walthamstow's a happy, chilled-out community," said resident Hajra Mir. "We weren't expecting this."

That sense of shock was repeated across the neighborhood. Residents said it is a friendly, quiet area where people respect their neighbors. Several of the suspects had lived there for many years and attended local schools.

But several men from the neighborhood have been linked to the Saviour Sect — an offshoot of a disbanded radical Islamist group, al-Muhajiroun, which was based in nearby Tottenham and gained notoriety for praising the Sept. 11 hijackers.


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