LONDON – British police on Thursday released a closed-circuit television image of one of the suspects in last week’s mass-transit bombings, captured as the man raced through the rail station in the city of Luton hours before explosions ripped through three subway trains and a bus in London.
In the image, the suspect, Hasib Hussain – whom police now say was 18, not 19 – sports a beard and mustache. A large backpack – believed to contain a bomb made from 10 pounds of military explosives that Hussain is suspected of detonating aboard the No. 30 bus in London – can be seen just above the shoulder of his dark jacket. Thirteen people died in that blast, including Hussain.
Police appealed for Londoners to come forward with any photos that might have been taken of the bus before it was blown up. They said they were trying to reconstruct Hussain’s movements in the hours before the explosion and were especially interested in images that showed him boarding the bus.
The police also raised the confirmed death toll from the four bombings to 54 as Londoners observed two minutes of silence Thursday to honor the victims of the explosions and the emergency workers who had rescued survivors and recovered the dead.
Hussain’s movements have been key to progress in the investigation. Police began to unravel the plot after Hussain’s parents reported him missing 12 hours after the bombings. His driver’s license was found at the site of the bus bombing, and his parents’ description of what he was wearing matched the clothing on a decapitated body that police had suspected was the bomber’s.
Investigators are trying to answer a number of questions, said Peter Clarke, the assistant police commissioner for anti-terrorism: “Who actually committed the attack? Who supported them? Who financed them? Who trained them? Who encouraged them?”
Police are probing Hussain’s recent travel to Pakistan as well as a trip there by Shehzad Tanweer, 22, who’s suspected of triggering the bomb that ripped through a subway train near Aldgate station. At least seven died in that attack.
Relatives have told British newspapers that both men returned from their trips changed: Tanweer from a cricket fanatic into a quiet man who always seemed to be on his way to the mosque, and Hussain from a loud and troubled teenager into a mature man seemingly at peace who sometimes sported traditional robes.
Young British Muslims often visit Pakistan or Afghanistan for religious training – past studies have indicated that more than 2,000 have made similar trips – and there’s no evidence that the two men attended terrorist camps in Pakistan.
But police said they were looking at the trips as they pursued “any links overseas” to the July 7 terrorist attacks.
Police in Leeds, the city in central England where Hussain lived, again evacuated hundreds of people Thursday after finding suspicious substances in a building the bombers may have used as a “bomb factory” or headquarters.
At noon, London came to a standstill. Black cabs and double-decker buses stopped in the middle of the street. In front of the New Scotland Yard offices – the home of the Metropolitan London Police – Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair and British Home Secretary Charles Clarke stood solemnly along with hundreds of central London office workers who had come to honor the dead.
Six hours later, tens of thousands gathered in Trafalgar Square for a memorial service. Mayor Ken Livingstone said that, sadly, a moment of great joy for London – being awarded the 2012 Olympics, would forever be tied to the bombings that came the following morning.
“In seven years’ time, sitting in the Olympic seats and cheering for the 200 competing teams will be those who were maimed but survived these attacks, and those whose relatives have died,” he said.