LONDON – A clear plastic food tub could be a significant clue for police hunting those behind the botched London transit bombings.
Detectives said Monday that the four bombs and a fifth discovered later in a park all were made using the same kind of humble kitchen container.
London police also identified two of the four suspects, and the police chief said the force is “racing against time” to find the bombers, who fled three subway trains and a bus when their devices failed to fully detonate last Thursday.
At a televised news conference, Peter Clarke, head of the Metropolitan Police anti-terrorist squad, held up one of the white-lidded, 1.65-gallon containers – called a Delta 6250 – and urged any shopkeeper who had sold five or more of them to contact police. In another similarity among the bombings, he said the containers were all placed inside dark-colored bags or backpacks.
Earlier, Prime Minister Tony Blair apologized for the killing of a Brazilian electrician mistaken for a terrorist as officials confirmed that undercover police shot him eight times – once in the shoulder, seven in the head. Blair also urged Britons to come forth with information on the fugitive bombers.
Police identified two of the suspects as Yasin Hassan Omar, 24, and Muktar Said Ibrahim, 27, also known as Muktar Mohammed Said, but did not give their nationalities.
Authorities also released new closed-circuit images of the four suspects and gave details of their movements, recounting how one bolted from a subway station pursued by passengers, while another jumped through a subway window and fled down the tracks.
Armed officers raided a London apartment that Said – suspected of trying to bomb a bus in east London on Thursday – was believed to have visited recently. Forensic officers in white overalls searched the apartment in Curtis House, a concrete high-rise in the city’s northern suburbs.
Resident Sammy Jones, 33, said she thought she recognized a man who visited the building as Said. She said he stayed with an African named George who lived in a ninth-floor apartment. Jones said two men of Somali appearance also visited the apartment.
“They used to come in at all hours of the night,” she said.
She said a few weeks earlier she had seen George and the man she thought was Said filling an elevator with small brown cardboard boxes. When she asked what was in them, they replied “wallpaper stripper.”
Metropolitan Police also said Monday they had arrested two people on suspicion of terrorism in the area but not at the raided address. Three other suspects are already being questioned at a high-security London police station “on suspicion of the commission, instigation or preparation of acts of terrorism” in connection with the July 21 attacks.
On Sunday, police destroyed a package found by a passer-by in bushes in a west London park not far from the scene of the attempted bombing at Shepherd’s Bush station. Clarke said forensic examination showed “clear similarities” between the device and the four bombs found Thursday.
Those attacks came two weeks after bombings that killed 52 people and four suspected suicide bombers on three subway trains and a double-decker bus.
At the press conference, Clarke described how the four bombers fled when they realized they had failed.
At Oval station in south London, the suspect was “chased from the station by extraordinarily brave members of the public who tried to detain him.” Giving them the slip, the man ran into the Brixton neighborhood, where police later found his “New York” sweat shirt.
At Shepherd’s Bush, the suspect – Omar – fled the train, probably by jumping through a window and running along the tracks, Clarke said.
Police Commissioner Ian Blair said police were mounting “an absolutely brilliant operation, and it is, of course, racing against time.” But as the investigation rolled on, police faced growing criticism over the killing of the unarmed Brazilian mistaken for a potential bomber.
The family of Jean Charles de Menezes, 27, shot dead Friday inside a subway carriage in front of horrified passengers, said they were considering legal action against the police.
“They have to pay for that in many ways, because if they do not, they are going to kill many people,” the victim’s cousin, Alex Pereira, told British Broadcasting Corp. television.
As a coroner’s inquest opened Monday into the shooting, Blair expressed “sorrow and deep sympathy” over the death but said police were working “in very, very difficult circumstances.”
“Had the circumstances been different and had this turned out to be a terrorist, and they had failed to take that action, they would have been criticized the other way,” the prime minister said.
The police commissioner has indicated he believed al Qaeda-linked terrorists were involved in both the July 7 and July 21 attacks. Asked if the attacks were connected, he said: “We have no proof that they are linked, but clearly there is a pattern here.”
Police were reportedly investigating whether some of the July 21 suspects may have visited the same Welsh white-water rafting center as two of the July 7 suicide bombers, Mohammed Sidique Khan and Shahzad Tanweer.
The men went rafting there June 4, according to the National Whitewater Center. Police have refused to comment on media reports that a rafting center brochure was found in the explosives-laden knapsack found on a bus July 21.
Center director Paul O’Sullivan told the Associated Press the two identified July 21 suspects were not registered on the same rafting trip as the July 7 suspects.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox
Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.