DCSIMG

Suicide bombers who had it all to live for

WITH row after row of red brick, terrace houses, abandoned gardens and graffitied walls Beeston is a curious crucible in which Britain's first suicide bombers were forged.

Shehzad Tanweer, Hasib Mir Hussain, both from sink estate in Leeds, and Mohammed Sadique Khan, who grew up here, have forever tarnished the reputation of a city whose most recent export has been mass murder.

About 16,000 people live in Beeston, many from different ethnic backgrounds. Some people blamed the area for offering teenagers few opportunities and said it was forcing them to turn to fundamentalist teachings.

The plight of a community caught up in the dark, apocalyptic dreams of the religiously deluded, was summed up best by the uncle of 22-year-old Tanweer. Bashir Ahmed said: "The family is shattered and embarrassed. They cannot believe it. He did not seem desperate or extreme or capable of doing this."

In what turned into an impromptu press conference at the family's fish and chip shop yesterday afternoon, Mr Ahmed said in exasperation: "The family has lived here a long time. They had the respect of the community. That is gone."

Gone. All in the time it took his nephew to slaughter seven and injure so many more on the Aldgate train. Mr Ahmed went on to say that his nephew was not a fanatic, but was "God fearing".

What drove these young men to carry out such a deed is the talk of the community. Tanweer prayed each day at the Muslim Association Mosque and Madrisah, a converted terrace house, a few hundred yards from where police are searching properties in Stratford Street which are believed to be connected to the fourth as yet unnamed bomber.

Muslim elders insist there was no radical preaching in the area. In fact, the imam at the mosque has said he was horrified to learn of the bombings. At last Friday's prayers Mumir Shah said: "I told worshippers that this cannot be good. We are brothers because of Abraham. Our message is one of peace and friendship."

There are those, however, within the Muslim community who tend to the flames of extremism. Jamil Ahmed, secretary of the Leeds Islamic Centre, said the community has in the past reported to the West Yorkshire Police a number of individuals whose view of Islam does not tally with the community.

Mr Ahmed said: "They are guys like Abu Hamza. Empty vessels who make a lot of noise. We had to ban them as they tried to push the imam around. They gave him a hard time for not being radical enough."

Mr Ahmed said the individuals were recent converts to the faith and among them involved one person of mixed race. "They are hijacking our religion," he said. "They are banned from the mosque and the police are aware of them."

He did say, however, that these individuals do not advocate violence. Mr Ahmed also said young Muslims like any other group face problems which must be addressed.

Back on the cluttered streets of Beeston there was for the moment solidarity for the innocent members of the family.

Joyce Walker, 76, who lives on Stratford Terrace, said: "It is so shocking. I have lived here for 25 years and never thought anything like this could happen."

One Muslim woman who is a regular visitor to the family said: "This is heartbreaking. Can you imagine having to live with the knowledge that your son is dead and that he killed so many people?"

For a neighbourhood heavily mixed between Asian and white families, and where children of all colours seem to happily play, there is a peace but also small hints of an ugliness which may yet come. One Asian man said a car had already driven past with a white man hurling abuse out of the window.

Twelve miles away from Beeston is the council estate in Dewsbury, where police have cordoned off the home of Mohammed Sadique Khan, neighbours gather to discuss what has happened and what is yet to come.

The estate is heavily Muslim with Indians, Pakistanis and Saudis living side by side. Despite the 80F temperature, many women returned from collecting their children from the local school, wear black Muslim clothes with only their eyes visible behind glasses.

One man who gave his name, then asked for it not to be used, said: "I don't want Khan's crew coming for me."

He explained that Islam would be demonised in Britain as a result of what had taken place. "People will want to know what drove this man, our neighbour, to do such a terrible deed," he said. "There could be a thousand reasons. He believed it was for Islam, but he was wrong. We will suffer for this. Not as much as those killed or injured in London, or the families of the killers, but we will all suffer."

'He just seemed a polite young man'

A FATHER spoke yesterday of his "utter devastation" on discovering that his next-door neighbour was a London suicide bomber.

The taxi driver, 37, who spoke on condition of anonymity, lived next door to Shehzad Tanweer and his family, after moving five years ago to Colwyn Road in Beeston, Leeds.

The neighbour, who is from Yorkshire and not of Asian origin, said he never imagined the "polite, educated boy" who lived next door was one of the bombers. "It is utterly devastating. I am totally gobsmacked, I just can't believe it. I can't put into words how I feel," he said.

"I was totally shocked by the bombings, as everyone was, watching it on the news, but then to find out it was your next-door neighbour. I used to speak to Shehzad in the street, just to say, 'Good morning' and 'Good afternoon'.

"He seemed a nice enough lad, just nice and normal. He was always well spoken. He seemed like a normal teenager, he didn't have a beard, he wore sports tops, tracksuit bottoms and trainers - like anybody else, really.

"I know he was a keen cricketer, I use to see him playing cricket in their garden. He just seemed like a well-educated, polite, young man.

"His father, Mumtaz, is a lovely bloke, a really nice fella. He just seems like a family man who thinks a lot about his family and runs his business. The last time I saw Mumtaz was the day before the bombs. I was on my way to work and we said 'Good evening' to each other.

"I am very, very shocked by it all. I can't really describe how I feel. There are that many police about and reporters outside the house, it feels unreal.

"I would never have thought in a million years he was anything at all to do with this. They are such a nice decent, family, always pleasant and well spoken. Especially in the Asian community, their traditions are a lot to do with the family and respect, and they are a very well-respected family within their community."

The neighbour said he first discovered the truth when the police arrived. "My wife went to open the front window and said, 'The police are outside.'

"All the road was cordoned off. We got up and went out, and the police just said they couldn't tell us anything.

"The next thing we found out was that it was to do with the family next door, and we saw it on the news."

PAT HURST

 
 
 

Back to the top of the page