Tony Blair today said he intended to tighten the Government’s controversial anti-terror laws after the London bombings which claimed 52 lives.
Mr Blair also said measures were in hand to fast-track the deportation of radical priests, to prevent them from spreading what he described as their “evil and extreme ideology”, springing from a “perverted and poisonous misinterpretation of Islam“.
As the police investigation continued in Leeds, Luton and London, Mr Blair told a hushed Commons that police and security services had done ‘magnificent work’ in the aftermath of the July 7 bombings.
Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, he called for calm after the shock of finding that the bombings had been carried out by young British men. He emphasised that the terrorists represented an extreme minority of the Muslim community, and condemned the opportunistic race attacks which have come in their wake.
“There will be a sense of profound shock and anxiety in country at what has happened and also a need and a willingess to act,” he told an unusually sombre House.
His words were particularly aimed at the shell-shocked suburban communities around Leeds, which were today waking up to the realisation that the four suicide bombers had grown up among their red-brick terraces.
Hundreds of residents have spent a night away from their homes in the Beeston and Burley areas surrounding yesterday’s dramatic police raids, and today the West Yorkshire chief constable Colin Cramphorn was unable to assure them they would be home by tonight.
Mr Blair said: “This is a small group of extremists. It is not one that can be ignored because of the danger, but neither should it define Muslims in Britain who are overwhelmingly law-abiding, decent members of our society and we condemn attacks against them.”
Police revealed last night that the London bombs were the work of four young British men of Pakistani origin, who planned their own deaths in the blasts. Three of the men lived in the city and the immediate fear is that members of a terrorist cell linked to the city are planning further strikes. The mastermind behind the attacks and the bombmaker are both still thought to be at large.
The man who planted the bomb at Edgware Road was named as Mohammed Sidique Khan, 30, the married father of an eight-month-old baby, who is believed to have come from the Leeds area.
Two other terrorists were Hasib Hussain, 19, who bombed the bus in Tavistock Square, of Colenso Mount, Leeds, and Shehzad Tanweer, 22, the Aldgate bomber, who lived at Colwyn Road, Leeds.
Police believe they know the identity of the fourth, whose remains are believed to be in the bombed Tube train carriage on the Piccadilly Line. It is thought that he too comes from the Leeds area.
Armed police raided six addresses in West Yorkshire yesterday, including the homes of three of the men, who they now know travelled to Luton in a hired car last Wednesday to join the fourth man, who may also have arrived by car. After spending the night in Luton they boarded the 7.40am Thameslink train to King’s Cross the next day, each armed with a 10lb rucksack bomb.
Police found a bomb factory in Leeds containing a “viable amount of explosives”. The raids came after the discovery of driving licences and credit cards at the scenes of the explosions, and a telephone call from the mother of Hasib Hussain, who asked police to try to trace her son.
A relative of one of the bombers was arrested and taken to London for questioning. Intelligence agencies say that at least two of the men had recently returned from Pakistan. All four were British, but with origins in Pakistan. MI6, MI5 and British diplomats were in touch with the Pakistani authorities last night to try to track down any connections with terrorists there. Security sources confirmed that none of the bombers was on any MI5 file, although one had links to a person investigated by police.
The four were captured on CCTV cameras at King’s Cross Thameslink station, laughing together and carrying rucksacks, minutes before they set off for their targets at 8.30am on July 7. Their apparent aim was to separate, moving north, south, east and west on the underground and detonating their bombs – although the bomber who was supposed to go north was apparently thwarted because the Northern line was closed due to a defective train.
Luton Railway Station reopened this morning after being closed for nearly twelve hours as police and bomb squad officers carried out 10 controlled explosions on two cars believed to have been used by the bombers.
Trains were cancelled and Luton station was evacuated at 2pm yesterday, and it remained closed until 1.25am as police worked under floodlights, examining the cars. Even when the station re-opened, the car park remained sealed off until 4.30am, leaving hundreds of drivers stranded.
One of the two suspect cars was found to contain “volatile” explosives. Wary of a possible booby-trap, the police made the car safe for forensic examination before loading it onto a low-bed truck this morning. A second car was towed to Leighton Buzzard as more than 100 officers from Bedfordshire Police, the Metropolitan Police bomb squad and British Transport Police searched the station for any evidence of the rendezvous of the four bombers last Thursday morning.
Today Mrr Blair said that in the next 14 days proposals would be published to tighten the anti-terror laws – including the controversial control orders – which scraped its way onto the statute book at the end of the last Parliamentary session. The focus would be on measures to combat the incitement and instigation of terrorism.
The Government would also look urgently at how to strengthen the process for deporting the hardline priests who incite hatred. He said this would involve opening up dialogue with Muslim leaders both at home and abroad to mobilise the “moderate and true voice of Islam”. He added: “I think we all know that security measures alone are not going to deal with this.”
Michael Howard, who had earlier expressed his full backing and support for the Prime Minister in his actions following the attacks, said: “The peril we face extends far beyond our shores, has taken the lives on countless Muslims and is part of a criminal conspiracy to destroy our shared way of life.”
Shahid Malik, Labour MP for Dewsbury, the West Yorkshire town which was home to one of the bombers, said the situation in his constituency and further afield represented “the most profound challenge yet faced by the British Muslim community”.
He said: “Condemnation is not enough, and British Muslims must, and I believe are prepared to, confront the voices of evil head on. This is a defining moment for this country and I can assure you that my constituency of Dewsbury will not be found to be wanting,” he declared.
At a council meeting in Luton today, Councillor Mohammed Bashir, who represents a large Muslim ward, acknowledged the fears of extremism among the Muslim community.
“We know there are extremists living among us and we work closely with the police as a result. They come here to Luton town centre to try and recruit the young ones. They are professional, they tell them stories, brainwash them and then we know some are taken to camp in Afghanistan. Their actions are a big setback for Muslim communities,” said Mr Bashir.