Doubts over hopes for extradition as suspect is charged by Italian police

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The Independent Online

As further details emerged of how Hussain Osman was tracked by police honing in on his mobile telephone, after he left London, travelled through Paris, Milan and Bologna into Rome, another judge in Rome issued domestic charges against him.

The Home Office said it was confident the proceedings ­ a test case for the recently introduced European arrest warrant ­ were "on track" and that Mr Osman would be returned to face trial within the three-month time limit. The National Criminal Intelligence Service, which issued the warrant on 29 July, said that all the necessary paperwork had been sent to Rome.

But there were fears last night that a combination untested procedures could stall plans for a quick trial.

Mr Osman, 27, is wanted over the failed bomb attack at Shepherd's Bush Tube station on 21 July. He on a Eurostar service last Tuesday and was tracked to Italy using his mobile phone, which was being monitored by police and intelligence services in Britain using triangulation methods. Italian police sent tapes of his calls to London, where experts were able to confirm that the voice was that of Mr Osman.

He was arrested without a struggle after police apparently persuaded his brother to hand over the keys of his flat.

Italian police said yesterday that they hoped Mr Osman would be extradited soon. Carlo De Stefano, the head of Italy's anti-terrorist police, said: "I hope it won't take very long."

The police chief revealed that Mr Osman had injured his thigh while allegedly making his escape from the scene of the Shepherd's Bush attempted attack. He is thought to have hurt it on a fence. He said Mr Osman, one of five brothers, appeared to be a member of an ad hoc group, rather than a structured organisation. Detectives are still questioning 18 people arrested over the past week, including three suspects for the 21 July attacks ­ Muktar Said Ibrahim, 27, and Ramzi Mohammed, both arrested in North Kensington last Friday, and Yasin Hassan Omar, 21, arrested in Birmingham last Wednesday.

Mohammed's brother, Wahbi Mohammed, is also being questioned over the unexploded fifth bomb found two days after the attempted attacks.

It also emerged yesterday that Mr Osman's real name is Hamdi Isaac and that he had also changed his country of birth from Ethiopia to Somalia when he moved from Italy to England in 1996, to help gain political refugee status and financial assistance.

In Rome, two investigating magistrates, Judges Franco Ionta and Pietro Saviotti, again interrogated Mr Osman and his brother Remzi, who was also arrested on Friday. The two Ethiopians were initially charged with using false passports, while Mr Osman was also charged with membership of an international terrorist group.

The start of the main extradition hearing was expected yesterday, but was delayed at the last minute because Britain had sent Italian authorities "only partial documentation," according to the magistrate, Domenico Miceli, who is in charge of that hearing.

The Italian authorities said a definitive date for the main hearing was expected to be set later this week.

Domestic proceedings could be issued against Mr Osman in Italy, and they would normally take precedence over extradition. A trial could take a year or more to reach court although, under the new arrangement, Mr Osman would be returned to Britain once proceedings were completed and not, as previously thought, at the end of any sentence.

However, since the Italian authorities are known to be keen to co-operate with Britain's request, it could be that any domestic charges could simply be dropped to let the extradition take place.

Mr Osman's lawyer confirmed that her client had asked not to be extradited to Britain, preferring to remain in Italy, where he lived during the 1990s.

An ex-girlfriend of Mr Osman has said that he was an ardent admirer of American culture, a big fan of hip-hop and liked dressing like a rapper and drinking beer on dates.

"We called him Bambi because of his doe-like black eyes and long, full eyelashes," the unidentified Italian woman toldLa Repubblica newspaper.

"We went to the disco together every Saturday afternoon. He had a fixation with America, it was his dream ­ the music, hip-hop.

"He dressed like a rapper in baggy trousers and basketball T-shirts. He drank alcohol, beer, he danced really well," she recalled.

"He was not a suspicious character. I got a shock when I saw him on television," she said.

Countdown to arrest

TUESDAY 26 JULY

Mr Osman leaves Britain on a Eurostar from Waterloo. Technological efforts to track him begin.

THURSDAY 28 and WEDNESDAY 27

He travels to Rome via Paris, Milan and Bologna. British police tune in to his mobile, which had made calls to Italy, and tell Italian police. He is tracked across Europe by surveillance that records conversations. He calls Saudi Arabia. Osman dumps his British SIM card and replaces it with an Italian one. Italian police tune in to it.

FRIDAY 29

Mr Osman is arrested in Rome, suspected of trying to bomb the Tube near Shepherd's Bush. He is in at his brother's flat. Police believe all four of 21 July suspects are in custody.

SATURDAY 30

Mr Osman faces extradition hearing in Rome. Police trace mobile calls to his brother, Remzi Isaac, who was also detained, and his father in Brescia. Italian authorities say he was an Ethiopian, not a Somali.

SUNDAY 31

Fati, a second brother, is arrested in Brescia. Hussain Osman's lawyer, Antonietta Sonnessa, says that he was trying to show Britons "how difficult life is in countries where war is a daily event" and had no intention of blowing up the Tube.

MONDAY 1 AUGUST

Italian police say British police told them on 26 July that a 21 July suspect had left the country. Italian investigators say Hussain Osman has no links with international terrorist organisations. Rome's anti-terrorism chief says Mr Osman's support network is his family, which acts " extemporaneously".

Genevieve Roberts