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Britain's home-grown terrorists

By Matthew Chance

Hasib Hussain, of Leeds, is shown in two pictures: Police say the one at left shows him on his way Thursday to blow up the London bus.



Great Britain

(CNN) -- Terrorists don't usually attack their own. It happens, of course: In Iraq, for instance, insurgent bombers all too often kill Iraqi civilians.

But, till recently, it's been terrorists from one community killing people in another: Palestinian suicide bombers crossing into Israel; Chechen rebels in Russia; the 9/11 hijackers attacking the United States.

But London's bombing suspects are British, born and bred, with jobs and families and lives. Their victims were not, on the surface, enemies; not an occupying army -- but their own countrymen.

"I certainly think this is a new dimension," said Peter Newman of London University's War Studies Institute.

"These are people who grew up in Britain, that are now attacking their own community, and taking other Muslim people into their missions and killing them ... a novelty we haven't seen in this country so far," Newman said.

British suicide bombers are a recent, dark phenomenon. Richard Reid, the so-called shoe-bomber, was from South London. Shortly after 9/11, he was arrested trying to blow up a transatlantic airliner in mid-air with explosives in his shoes.

In 2003, two British suicide bombers targeted Israelis after joining the Palestinian militant group Hamas. One detonated his bomb in a Tel Aviv bar, killing three. The other fled, his body found a few days later.

British authorities, shocked by the London attacks, are now vowing to root out British terrorism.

"We will seek to debate the right way forward in combating this evil within the Muslim community with Muslim leaders, and it's our intention to begin this process immediately," said British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Wednesday.

"In the end, this can only be taken on and defeated by the community itself, but we all can help and facilitate and we will do so."

But what is the cause, the catalyst, that turns British Muslim men into terrorists?

Problems with Britain's nearly 2 million Muslims have been simmering for years and are growing. In 2001, riots swept immigrant areas of Britain's north. An official report cited alienation, unemployment, and lack of opportunity as causes.

All of these are factors that moderate Muslim organizations say are still making their youth vunerable to extremism.

"We have social exclusion, we have a sense of not-belonging, a sense of alienation. We have alien ideas, frustration, and humiliation," said Dr. Daud Abdullah of the Muslim Council of Britain.

"When you add the international dimension to this, all of these factors feed into the mindset of our youth, and it's demonstrating itself in this outrageous behavior," Abdullah added.

But it is the United States' -- and Great Britains' -- invasion of Iraq that has outraged many British Muslims. The Afghan war and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are also high on their list of grievances.

Analysts say radical Islamic groups may now be capitalizing on the anger and frustration of some British Muslims by channeling those feelings into a simple solution: terrorism. Hence Richard Reid, hence the Israel suicide bombers, hence the London attacks.

But what can be done about it?

"It's very difficult. I think it needs to start with us and the way we approach these communities. We have to make more effort to integrate them," London University's Newman said.

"But it goes further than that. There is also an obligation on the part of the Muslim community to stamp out these elements and to make it clear to everyone in this community that these radical elements will not be tolerated," he said.

"There are no quick fixes, but analysts say it is a problem on a national scale, to be ignored at our peril."

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