Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Blair discusses new anti-terror laws | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
Select Page

LONDON (Reuters) -Prime Minister Tony Blair met with opposition leaders Michael Howard and Charles Kennedy on Tuesday to discuss how to strengthen anti-terror laws, after he urged the public to help catch the London bombers who failed in attacks last week.

Conservative leader Howard told reporters there was a strong desire to work together in such difficult times.

&#34It”s important we approach these difficult issues in a spirit of consensus,&#34 he said.

Howard and Liberal Democrats leader Kennedy have called for &#34phone tap&#34 evidence to be allowed in courts.

Home Secretary Charles Clarke said the talks had been &#34very constructive&#34 and that all parties would keep in contact over the summer.

Police said on Monday two men had been arrested under anti-terrorism laws — bringing the total in custody to five — but warned they could not rule out another attack.

Police are still hunting for the four suspected bombers behind botched attacks on London”s transport network on July 21 that have raised fears among residents that the city is now a firm target for Islamist militants. On July 7, suicide bombers killed 52 people on three underground railway trains and a bus.

&#34There will be people who know something. It is part of our duty in order to protect the country that people come forward and give the police the information that they can,&#34 Blair told reporters on Monday.

Armed police raided a housing estate in north London used by at least one of the suspected bombers, as police chiefs said they were racing against time to stop any further attacks by militants they link to al Qaeda. &#34BOMBER ON WELFARE PAYMENTS&#34

Newspapers said on Tuesday one suspect had lived in a flat on the estate and had claimed 23,000 pounds of state money or so-called &#34benefits&#34 to pay the rent over six years.

Under the headline &#34Bomber on Benefits,&#34 the Sun said 24-year-old Yasin Hassan Omar — named on Monday as one of the suspects pictured in security camera footage — helped plot the July 21 attacks while living in the flat.

It said the Home Office was checking his immigration status.

The Daily Mail said at least two of the suspects were believed to have entered the country as asylum seekers from East Africa and had received state welfare payments.

No government officials were immediately available for comment on the reports.

Immigration was a major political battleground when national elections were held in May, with many voters concerned about overcrowded public services and housing shortages.

Howard accused Blair at the time of &#34pussyfooting&#34 on immigration and said people wanted stricter controls. Opponents accused him in turn of playing the &#34race card.&#34

The four suicide bombers who carried out the July 7 attacks were all British Muslims, three of them of Pakistani origin.

Police released more pictures of the suspects involved in the attempted July 21 attacks and gave details of the bombs.

Armed police and officers with dogs trained to sniff out explosives patrolled the transport system and there were more security alerts in the capital. The wail of sirens has become a regular sound on London”s streets since the attacks.

The city”s anti-terrorist police chief Peter Clarke said a bomb found in a west London park was similar to those used in the botched attacks.

Police were trying to establish if the device belonged to a fifth man or if one of the attackers had carried two bombs.

Clarke said all the bombs had been packed in the same kind of plastic food container and hidden in dark rucksacks.

The investigation suffered a setback at the weekend when police said they had shot a Brazilian man in error after he was mistaken for a suicide bomber.

Jean Charles de Menezes, 27, was shot in the head after being chased onto an underground train by undercover police.

Three-quarters of the public thought bombings and security scares would be part of London life for the foreseeable future, according to an opinion poll published by the Times on Tuesday.