Breaks in the London Bomb Case
British police on Tuesday began revealing the contours of their investigation of the London Underground bombings of July 7. The details were heart-wrenching. It appears that the foot soldiers for the operation, at least, were 4 British citizens of South Asian Muslim heritage from the city of Leeds, aged from 19 to 30. Police sent a SWAT team into a house there, after evacuating 500 neighbors, to look for explosives; apparently that was where the bombs were assembled, that were used in the attack. The British police believe that the operational cell would have had a control above it, which still may be operative. They detained one man, apparently a relative of one of the bombers.
Two bombers were named by police, 19 year old Hasib Hussein and 22 year old Shehzad Tanweer. The four were what is called in counter-terrorism parlance “cleanskins,” i.e. operatives recruited for a mission who do not have a record and are not known to the authorities, so that they can more easily avoid surveillance.
Al-Sharq al-Awsat says that British authorities have issued 6 arrest warrants based on their searches of houses in Leeds on Tuesday. Via the Daily Mirror it says there are reports that the 4 bombers received al-Qaeda-type commando training, and that another 100 persons have been put under surveillance. Via the Times of London it says that the explosive used were “military” and may have come from the Balkans. [The bomb-maker may have run the cell and may be at large.]
Either the two Arabic-language claims of responsibility for the bombings posted to jihadi web sites last week are frauds, or the Leeds cell was working on behalf of an Arab one.
Police have videotape of the four young men arriving at King’s Cross rail station, wearing huge camper backpacks and seeming relaxed and full of camaraderie. At least three of them died in the explosions. The 19-year-old had gone missing the previous day, and his worried family in Leeds had filed a missing persons report with the police. He appears to have become disoriented and to have missed his chance to enter the subway system, which was closed down when the other three bombs went off. That may be why he took the double decker bus, which is where his bomb went off. Earlier reports mention passengers seeing him fiddle with something in his backpacke. Perhaps his timer had malfunctioned.
A Guardian poll last year showed that British Muslims were angered by “the war on terror” and the Iraq War, that many were deserting the Labour Party en masse, and that about a quarter (up from a sixth) believed British Muslims were too integrated into UK society.
According to this market research newsletter:
‘ 1. According to the 2001 Census there are 747, 285 Pakistanis living in Britain. Pakistanis are the second largest ethnic minority group behind Indians and make up 1.3% of the total UK population.
2. Pakistanis have settled in large cities all over the UK. Interestingly, unlike many other ethnic minorities, London does not have the largest concentration of Pakistanis. They are found in large numbers in Humberside and Yorkshire, West Midlands and the North West. Glasgow also has a sizeable Pakistani community.
3. Since 9/11, many Pakistanis have faced an increase in racism, especially young men, who are now more likely to be stopped and searched than any other ethnic minority group. They feel that people now view them as terrorists and that the media has become anti-Muslim. Thus in the current political climate, UK born Pakistanis can be more radical and into Islam than those born in Pakistan.
4. Pakistanis in Britain consume both mainstream and specialist television. Among the specialist television channels that are popular within this community are Prime TV and Ary Digital (which are aimed at primarily Pakistani viewers). Zee TV, Star TV and B4U are also popular; these are aimed at the whole of the South Asian community (ie Indians and Bangladeshis as well).’
One important point to note here is that satellite channels like Zee TV and B4U concentrate on South Asian popular culture and Mumbai [Bombay] films, with lots of dancing and flirting, and if they are popular it shows that a lot of the community is not interested in Muslim fundamentalism.
Leeds residents were shocked at the involvement of the Leeds 4, and said that Muslims in Yorkshire were normal and the local mosque moderate. Few could believe these young men could have been the perpetrators. Scratch deeper and you’ll find they had been meeting quietly with a local al-Qaeda recruiter, who instructed them not to display overt piety, so as to throw potential police monitors off the trail.
This Open Society report looks at British Muslims and the labor market.
Readers who have followed this story with me during the past week will know that I was skeptical that British Muslims would have been the perpetrators, since they would have known that their actions would endanger their relatives. But, obviously, the cult these young men joined managed to manipulate their minds to the point where they were no longer capable of thinking about the consequences of their actions for their loved ones, or for the victims, for that matter.
Legislators in democratic societies who are thinking about how to respond to this problem should give serious thought to RICO-like laws that could be used to curb religious cults, which typically isolate members, indoctrinate them, manipulate them, and sometimes coerce them. Cults avoid scrutiny by harassing critics and whistleblowers, often in ways that police find it difficult to respond to. The enormous problems modern societies have had with groups like Christian Identity, the Koreishites, Aum Shinrikyo, and now al-Qaeda, suggests that current legal frameworks are inadequate to address this problem. Ex-members, victims and critics of cults need a legal basis for protection from the cults. The American Family Foundation is doing excellent work in this regard.