Update on London Bombing Investigation
Cole: Unlikely to be by British Muslims
AP is reporting that London police have issued new conclusions about the July 7 London bombings. The three subway bombings were virtually simultaneous, suggesting that they were coordinated somehow (or maybe the timers had just been set for the same time). It is a little unlikely that they used cell phone detonators since the phones don’t always work in the Underground. This AP report is now saying that the plastic explosives were in fact powerful and sophisticated, contrary to earlier reports. The 49 dead cannot even be identified because of the force of the blasts.
CNN ran a piece Saturday in the US with Peter Bergen, speculating on the “chilling” possibility that the bombers were Muslim British subjects with UK passports. I have to say that I was outraged and appalled by this piece of potentially destructive speculation. [I have now seen a copy of the transcript and am sorry to say I misheard this report; it was about the danger to the US of radicalized European Muslims, not an allegation that British Muslims committed the July 7 attack. Apologies to Mr. Bergen and CNN. – 7/11/2005].
First, we still have no idea who did this. It is very likely the “Qaeda al-Jihad in Europe” group that claimed responsibility immediately. Their statement appeared very quickly after the bombings and yet had none of the appearance of being rushed. That suggests it was carefully composed before the fact. The rumors that the statement has errors in the Arabic or the Quran citation are absolutely incorrect, and al-Sharq al-Awsat came to the same conclusion in its Saturday edition.
The statement was in Arabic. The instances of British Muslim participation in terrorism given in the CNN piece were all non-Arabs: Richard Reid and several South Asian British, all of whom undertook operations abroad rather than in the UK. None of them probably even knew Arabic well or could compose a statement in it. Britain’s South Asian Muslim community is almost certainly not the origin of this attack. The statement celebrated Arabness or `urubah along with Islam. No Bangladeshi-Briton or Pakistani-Briton wrote that.
The statement was probably not written by a second-generation Arab Briton or even by a long-term, integrated Arab Briton resident.
So, if the statement is a guide to the identity of the attackers, this bombing could not have emanated from the British Muslim community.
I did a keyword search in OCLC Worldcat, an electronic database with 40 million volumes, for `urubah and Islam. Virtually all of the hits came from Egyptian Muslim thinkers publishing in Cairo and Giza during the past 30 years, roughly in a Muslim Brotherhood tradition. Egyptian Muslim revivalist intellectual Muhammad Amara wrote the big book on Uruba and Islam. Likewise, there was a book on Islam and uruba in Darfur, presumably supporting the Sudanese government (the Fur of Darfur are Muslims and often know Arabic, and the Arabic-speaking Sudanese living there are a minority, with whom the Fur will intermarry. The Arabic speakers, who look just like the Fur in being black Africans, have engaged in predations against the Fur in the past few years, with tens of thousands killed, even as some of the Fur sought greater regional autonomy from Khartum).
My guess is that the author of the statement is Egyptian or Sudanese, with some sort of intellectual genealogy in the radical fringes of the Muslim Brotherhood, perhaps al-Zawahiri’s al-Jihad al-Islami.
Of course, all of this is premised on the statement being a guide to the perpetrators, which we cannot know for sure. But everything else above follows pretty tightly if it is.