LONDON – Prime Minister Tony Blair summoned intelligence and security officials Thursday to discuss what new powers they need to prevent a repeat of the deadly London suicide bombings.
Blair”s government already plans a raft of new anti-terror measures by the end of the year, including outlawing attendance at terrorist training camps in Britain or abroad or glorifying acts of violence.
Blair has also said he will consult police and security services on whether evidence from phone taps should be allowed in court, a move his government has previously opposed, fearing it could compromise the work of Britain”s spies.
British police were cooperating closely with their counterparts in Pakistan to determine whether three of the suicide bombers — all Britons of Pakistani descent — had been helped by militants there. The three traveled to Karachi in southern Pakistan last year.
Pakistani intelligence officials said they had been given around 100 telephone numbers by British police to check for possible links with the suicide bombers.
Twenty of those numbers, which included both fixed lines and cellular telephones, were still under investigation, said a senior official, who did not want to be named because of the sensitive nature of his work. In London, Scotland Yard police headquarters declined to comment.
The Times and The Guardian newspapers in London on Thursday identified a suspect arrested in Pakistan as Haroon Rashid Aswat, 30.
Quoting unidentified intelligence sources, The Times said Aswat visited the home towns of all four bombers and selected targets in London. Citing intelligence sources, the newspaper also reported there had been up to 20 phone calls between Aswat and two of the bombers in the days before the attacks.
Aswat reportedly was once an associate of Abu Hamza al-Masri, the radical imam who is awaiting trial in Britain on charges of incitement to murder.
Aswat”s family in Batley, near the northern English town of Leeds, which was home to two of the suicide bombers, issued a statement saying they had not heard from him for many years.
"He has not lived at this house and we have not had contact with him for many years," said his father Rashid, who asked for his family to be left in peace. "There is no story that we can provide."
British officials said they have identified all the 56 people known to have died in the London transit bombings — 52 victims plus the four suicide bombers.
Blair has enlisted the help of Britain”s Muslim community to root out extremists blamed for radicalizing pockets of Muslim youth. He has also proposed an international conference, drawing together Islamic figures and government leaders across the world, to discuss the problem of extremist teaching in religious schools, known as madrassas.
One of the London bombers, Shahzad Tanweer, 22, is suspected of visiting a madrassa linked with militants in Lahore, Pakistan which has become a focus of the investigation.
According to a report in a Pakistani newspaper, Tanweer revered Osama bin Laden. The English-language Dawn newspaper said Tanweer visited family members in November in Chak 477-GB, a farming village near Faisalabad, an industrial city in eastern Pakistan. During his three- to four-week stay, he was visited by another suicide bombing suspect, Mohammed Sidique Khan, 30, Tanweer”s uncle told the newspaper.
"Osama bin Laden was Shahzad”s ideal and he used to discuss the man with his cousins and friends in the village," Dawn quoted the uncle, Tahir Pervaiz, as saying.
Pakistani officials have confirmed that Tanweer and Khan arrived together on Nov. 19, 2004, in Karachi, a transit hub and the nation”s biggest city. They left for London on Feb. 8, 2005.
Another suspect, 18-year-old Hasib Hussain, arrived in Pakistan on July 15. Authorities were trying to ascertain when he left the country.
The fourth alleged bomber was Jermaine Lindsay, a Jamaican-born Briton.
British detectives believe the four men received help to carry out the attacks and are investigating who provided the explosives, training and financing.