As relatives fear worst, suspect's identity emerges
FRANTIC relatives and friends of people missing after the London bomb attacks were yesterday scouring the city in the hope that they might yet be found alive.
As the confirmed death toll rose towards 50 and continued to climb, they handed out photographs, put up posters and rang around hospitals in scenes reminiscent of those witnessed in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in the US.
By yesterday evening, an emergency phone number set up by police had received 104,000 calls from people worried about their relatives and friends.
Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, and Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, both said that the bombings had all the hallmarks of al-Qaeda and warned that the terrorist cell responsible may still be in the country and planning further attacks.
Sir Ian said Thursday's bombings were "not only on London but on human beings from all over the world" and he pledged to do everything possible to catch the killers.
"The implacable resolve of the Metropolitan Police is to track down those responsible for these terrible events. We will bend every sinew of the Metropolitan Police and all our associated agencies and comrades to do that," he said.
Police urged members of the public to act as their eyes and ears, to build up the intelligence picture by reporting anything out of the ordinary.
"There's likely to still be a cell," said Sir Ian. "We must remain vigilant."
Last night, a Morocco-born man was emerging as a possible suspect. Reports in Brussels suggest that British security officials have been seeking information from European counterparts about Mohamed Garbuzi.
An associate of the London-based radical cleric Abu Qatada, Garbuzi has been described by a Spanish judge as "Osama bin Laden's ambassador in Europe".
Garbuzi was last year convicted in his absence by a Moroccan court and sentenced to 20 years for involvement in bomb attacks in Casablanca in 2003.
The Home Secretary said it was too early to be definite about the identity of the attackers, but confirmed early indications suggested that an al-Qaeda-linked group was responsible.
"The fact is, the modus operandi, the nature of the events and the website claims, all of these give some substance to that being a strong possibility," he said.
Mr Clarke, who last night called a special meeting of his European counterparts in response to the bombings, stressed that the terrorist threat remained "live".
"I have been very clear, the security services, the police have been very clear over a considerable period of time, that there is and was a substantial threat to this country," he said.
By last night, there were 49 people confirmed dead, but Sir Ian said that the final death toll would exceed 50, while being unlikely to rise above 100.
He said that there were 700 casualties - 350 people were taken to hospital, 22 were still in a critical condition and one person died in hospital. Thirteen people were known to have died following the bus explosion.
Emergency services trying to get to the carriages inside the Underground tunnels faced considerable difficulties.
"They are very challenging scenes. Our people are working under the most extreme circumstances," said Andy Hayman, Assistant Commissioner in charge of special operations for the Metropolitan force.
Some bodies were still stuck in the wreckage of a Tube train in an unstable tunnel between King's Cross and Russell Square stations last night.
Police said that initial forensic investigations suggested that each device contained less than 10lbs of high explosive and they were probably carried in small bags and placed on the floor of the three Tube trains or, in the case of the bus, on the floor or a seat.
But speculation - fuelled by comments by Irish Premier Bertie Ahern - continued that the bus bomb may have been a suicide attack.
"It now looks clear from intelligence that it was the first suicide bombing in the United Kingdom and that again would bring a whole new perception of how you deal with this kind of act," he said.
Police said they had no evidence to suggest a suicide bomb attack, but added that nothing could yet be ruled out.
Scotland Yard's most experienced officers have been drafted in to the manhunt, which is already one of the force's biggest ever operations.
They believe the attacks were the work of a terrorist cell rather than one individual, and officers confirmed the cell could still be active.
Sir Ian also said the timings meant the attacks could not have been carried out by one person acting alone.
Police have established that the Liverpool Street explosion happened 100 yards into a tunnel and the device was in the third carriage of the train.
In the explosion between King's Cross and Russell Square, the bomb was in the first carriage in the standing area by the first set of double doors.
For the Edgware Road blast, the device was placed in the second carriage of the train in the standing area by the first set of double doors.
In all, there were four bombs and police also carried out two controlled explosions.
Mr Hayman said they were "absolutely determined to identify and successfully prosecute the people responsible for this appalling event".
He said: "We have the most experienced anti-terrorist officers on this case and we have the best community here in London to work with us."
A police source said: "CCTV is absolutely crucial here. Tubes run through many stations and the bus will have followed its route. The people who did this could have got on at any number of places. This is probably the largest CCTV recovery we have ever had to do."
Another key element is to follow up the hundreds of calls an anti-terrorist hotline has received since the bombings.
Every single piece of information is being followed up by detectives - a process described by senior officers as "hugely important".
Meanwhile, despite the possibility of further attacks, many Londoners decided to head into the city to work yesterday, and the Queen delivered a defiant message to the terrorists behind the bombings.
"Those who perpetrate these brutal acts against innocent people should know that they will not change our way of life," she told staff at the Royal London Hospital in east London after visiting survivors of the blasts.
"Atrocities such as these simply reinforce our sense of community, our humanity, our trust in the rule of law. That is the clear message from us all."
Describing the attacks as an outrage, she said she wanted to express her admiration for the people of London who were determined to resume their normal lives.
And in a reference to the visits her own mother made to the East End during the Blitz, the Queen said: "Sadly we in Britain have been all too familiar with acts of terror and members of my generation, especially at this end of London, know that we have been here before."
Other members of the Royal Family, including Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, and Prince Andrew, also visited the injured in hospital.
Radical Islamic websites and internet chatrooms were yesterday full of messages of support for the bombers and there were suggestions that supporters should phone in hoax bomb alerts to police stations in London and Europe to create more confusion. Two men were later arrested in the West Midlands in connection with hoax bomb calls.
In Britain, however, Islamic leaders criticised the terrorist atrocities as "inhuman" and worshippers attended mosques to pray for the victims. Muslims across Britain were urged to stay "calm and vigilant" amid fears of reprisals.
Sir Ian Blair said Muslim leaders had been quick to condemn the attacks. "This is a wonderful, diverse city and this is one London and one United Kingdom against this atrocity."
Services on parts of the Underground network are unlikely to be restored for several weeks but Ken Livingstone, the London Mayor, urged commuters to soldier on.
"I will use the Underground to go to work on Monday as normal and that is the advice I would give to every Londoner - that we should keep enjoying the city and living and working in the city."
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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