2 bomb suspects African immigrants
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Two of the men who tried to bomb London's mass transit system on July 21 were east African immigrants who had lived in Britain legally for more than a decade, the British government revealed Tuesday.
That background differs from those of the men who carried out lethal bombings two weeks earlier, three of whom were of Pakistani heritage and were born in Britain.
The would-be bombers, identified by police as Yasin Hassan Omar and Muktar Said Ibrahim, emigrated to Britain in the 1990s as political refugees with their families, the British Home Office said. Omar came from Somalia in 1992, while Ibrahim arrived from Eritrea in 1990.
Ibrahim's relatives in London said they had not seen him in "many months" but they were "shocked" that he was implicated in the attacks. Police said a tip from the family led to his identification.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Ian Blair said in an interview there was "no direct link at the moment" between the July 21 bombers still on the loose and the July 7 bombers who died in four bombings which killed 52 commuters bus and subway travelers.
But he said the July 21 bombs, which failed to explode, were just as powerful as the first ones.
If the bombs had exploded, the carnage would have been "at least the same as July 7," he said. "These were major attempts at murder."
Blair, speaking Tuesday evening in an interview with Britain's Independent Television News, said police knew why the July 21 bombs only partially detonated. "I know why they didn't go off," Blair said, but declined to reveal the reasons.
Police spent a second day searching an apartment building where Omar lived for the past six years and impounded a vehicle in connection with the investigation. Neighbors told CNN Ibrahim shared the apartment.
The residence, on the ninth floor of a 13-floor building in north London, has been registered to Omar since February 1999, according to local government records, which indicate he received a monthly housing subsidy of £300 ($550) until two months ago.
Omar, 24, who was 11 years old when he arrived in Britain from Somalia, was granted "indefinite leave to remain" in the country, the equivalent of permanent residency status, in May 2000, according to the Home Office.
Police allege Omar was the would-be bomber of the city's Warren Street Underground station last Thursday.
In closed-circuit television images released by police, he is wearing a blue shirt as he jumps the turnstile to flee the station, minutes after his backpack bomb failed to fully detonate.
Police have said Ibrahim was associated with Omar's apartment and recently visited it.
Ibrahim, 27, who was 14 when he arrived in Britain from Eritrea, applied for naturalization as a citizen in November 2003 and received a full British passport in September 2004, according to Home Office.
Ibrahim's family, in their written statement issued through police, said he is "not a close family member" and moved out at 16, in 1994. His father lives in a residence eight kilometers (five miles) away.
"We were shocked when we saw Muktar's picture on the national news. We immediately attended the local police station and made statements to the police. We would suggest that anyone with information contacts the police," the statement said.
Scotland's Yard said Ibrahim's relatives "are being fully cooperative with police at the moment."
Police allege Ibrahim targeted a double-decker bus last Thursday in the city's East End. In a closed-circuit television image released by police he appears wearing a white baseball hat.
Police raided Omar's apartment building, known as Curtis House, shortly before 2 a.m. (0100 GMT) Monday. They also searched a nearby garage. Forensic teams in protective suits were seen removing evidence.
Scotland Yard said, "Material has been discovered which is now being subjected to further examination."
Police seized a car linked to the July 21 probe parked in a street three kilometers (two miles) from the building, but Scotland Yard said "nothing hazardous was found." The vehicle was also removed for further tests.
One building resident told CNN that Omar and Ibrahim were "very friendly" and "easy going." Another said he had regularly played soccer with the pair.
Police say Ibrahim, Omar and the unnamed would-be bomber of the city's Oval Station -- the man seen in a closed-circuit television image wearing a New York sweatshirt as he ran from the station -- entered the underground system together around 12:25 p.m. (1125 GMT) Thursday.
Moments later, the unnamed Oval Station attacker was on board a train, according to a second image police released Monday.
Police said he was the first to partially detonate his backpack bomb, followed by Omar at Warren Street and Ibrahim on the bus.
The fourth would-be bomber targeted the Shepherd's Bush station in West London before fleeing on foot. Police found a fifth bomb in a park about 1.6 kilometers (one mile) away from Shepherd's Bush two days later, but said they were not looking for a fifth would-be bomber.
All five bombs were assembled inside identical 6.25-liter plastic food storage containers with white lids. That type of container, made in India, is sold in roughly 100 British stores.
Blair refrained from stating the two groups of attackers were connected or backed by the same terrorist organization.
Both groups "could not have done what they did by themselves," he said. "There have to be other people who are behind this, and that's what we've got to look for."
He continued, "The pattern is so similar that we have to have an understanding of the similar mind somewhere, you know, the four attacks, the kinds of explosives, but there is no direct link. There's a discussion about whitewater rafting and other things like that, but there's no direct link at the moment."
The July 7 bombings were carried out by three British-born Muslims of Pakistani heritage who hailed from the city of Leeds, about a three-hour drive north of London, and a fourth British citizen, a Muslim convert of Jamaican heritage, who lived closer to London.
They detonated backpacks filled with explosives nearly simultaneously on three London Underground trains and a bus heading in different directions, a plan attempted by the July 21 attackers.
Police have investigated a whitewater rafting center in north Wales that two July 7 bombers, Mohammad Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer, visited in June. Photographs of the men boating have appeared in some British newspapers.
There were four other men in Khan and Tanweer's boat, and a second six-men boat "of similar ethnic origin" rafting that day, according to the National Whitewater Rafting Center, which declined to identify the men.
But the center told The Guardian newspaper that no one named Yasin Hassan Omar and Muktar Said Ibrahim had been on the river the same day.
Police are detaining five men in connection to the July 21 probe.
Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Tony Blair met opposition party leaders Tuesday to discuss new legislation aimed at preventing a repeat of July 7 bombings.
The legislation would outlaw "indirect incitement" of terrorism, including praising those who carry out attacks, to counter extremist Islamist clerics accused of radicalizing disaffected Muslim youth in Britain.
The law also would make it illegal to receive training in terrorist techniques in Britain or abroad, or to plan an attack and activities such as acquiring bomb-making instructions on the Internet.
After the talks, Michael Howard, leader of the opposition Conservative Party, insisted Britain's main political parties were united in their determination to tackle terrorism. (Full story)
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said a compensation claim for the family of an unarmed Brazilian man who was shot by police would be "handled sympathetically and quickly." (Full story)
-- CNN's Andrew Carey, Graham Jones and Phil Hirschkorn contributed to this report.
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