'Confession' lifts lid on London bomb plot

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THE London bomb plot suspect arrested in Rome has allegedly confessed to Italian interrogators, lifting the lid on the plan to bring a wave of terror to Britain.

Anti-terror police in the Italian capital say Osman Hussain has told them that the "bombers" watched videos of British and American troops "exterminating" Iraqi women and children before embarking on the attack on London's transport network on July 21.

British police last night stepped up their hunt for more bombers planning assaults in Britain after suspected Shepherd's Bush Tube bomber Osman claimed there were more men connected to the cell that carried out the abortive attacks 10 days ago.

But detectives were warned they might have to wait months before interrogating the Somali-born British citizen, after his lawyer pledged to fight attempts to have his extradition to the UK fast-tracked.

Scotland Yard confirmed they have asked for him to be handed over under a European Arrest Warrant - a legal procedure which only came into effect in Italy last Thursday.

His Italian lawyer, Antonietta Sonnessa, said after leaving Regina Coeli prison that the highly technical legal process involved could take two months.

In the remarkable confession to Italian prosecutors, Osman gave a dramatic indication that the July 21 conspiracy went far beyond the four people originally named as the key suspects for the failed attacks on three Underground trains and a bus.

Osman, who was captured at his brother's home in Rome on Friday, also named Muktar Said-Ibrahim - who is suspected of planting a bomb on the 26 bus - as the ringleader of the "Notting Hill cell".

And, in a chilling riposte to Tony Blair's claims that the attacks on the capital were not related to his controversial decision to go to war on Iraq, Osman claimed the July 21 bombers watched videos of British and American troops "killing women and children" in Iraq before embarking on their mission.

In a 10-page statement signed on Friday night, Osman painted a disturbing picture of would-be Islamic terrorists radicalised during sessions at a gymnasium in west London and ultimately hatching a plot to terrorise the capital with home-made explosives that their "leaders" had taught them to make.

He claimed he spent much time discussing politics, religion and the Iraq war with Said-Ibrahim, Ramzi Mohammed - thought to be the Oval Tube attacker - and Yassin Hassan Omar, who allegedly tried to bomb a Tube train at Warren Street station. The men allegedly developed a "hatred" for US and British soldiers.

But it is the information Osman gave prosecutors about the potential size of the July 21 conspiracy that may prove most valuable for the British authorities as they try to secure his return to the UK through the Italian extradition system.

Osman's statement reportedly confirmed that Said-Ibrahim gathered together "Osman, Mohammed, Yassin Hassam and others, all Muslims, all British citizens" for meetings in a gym in a basement in Notting Hill.

"Muktar, our leader, told us that he had material to show us, but that we should be careful and not tell anyone about it," he was quoted as saying.

"Muktar always had new films on the war in Iraq. He showed us especially those in which you saw women and children killed and exterminated by the English and American soldiers, or widows, mothers and daughters who were crying."

Despite their spectacular success in snaring the four bombing suspects, plus a suspected "fifth bomber", police have been at pains to insist that the crisis is not over and that there are still dangerous elements at large.

Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Ian Blair made it clear that his officers were still hunting those involved in the wider conspiracy behind both the July 7 and 21 bombings.

He said: "It is inconceivable that these people did this by themselves. We have got to find the 'radicalisers', the bomb-makers, the chemists and the people who supplied them with the money to do this."

Scotland Yard confirmed that the hunt for everyone connected with the attacks so far - and those who might be planning further assaults - would be extended far beyond London. Two men were arrested yesterday in Leicester under the Terrorism Act.

La Repubblica and other Italian newspapers yesterday released excerpts from Italian magistrates' interrogation of Osman, who is an Eritrean or Ethiopian and whose real name is probably Hamdi Isaac.

Defending his actions, Osman is believed to have said he had not meant to kill himself or anyone else, but that his bomb should merely "sow fear".

"We had to do something," he reportedly told Judges Franco Ionta and Pietro Saviotti. "We had to react to the climate of hatred and hostility that was created after the July 7 bombs. We were not supposed to, and I was not to, kill anyone. That bomb would not have been able to cause victims."

Osman also tried to distance himself from the July 7 bombers, four British-born Pakistanis who killed more than 50 people, and Osama bin Laden or al-Qaeda.

It is claimed he told investigators the cell was surprised by the July 7 bombs. "We have no link with the Pakistanis," he was quoted as saying, although he conceded that his group took their attacks as a signal that it also should act.

On the morning of July 21, Said-Ibrahim told the group to handle the explosives with care. "That morning Muktar told us to pay attention. He told me 'be careful because you could burn yourself'."

After the July 21 attacks, Osman boarded a train in London headed for France and Italy, but had hoped to continue from Rome to Ethiopia. Before his arrest he attended Friday prayers at a mosque near his brother's apartment, where he was arrested by Italian police commandos.

In a new development last night, it emerged that Osman made a mobile phone call to Saudi Arabia shortly before his arrest, opening up the possibility that the bomb plot was carried out with the help of Saudi extremists. Saudi is the home country of Bin Laden and 15 of the September 11 terrorists.