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Extraordinary admission to interrogators by London bomb suspect

Osman Hussain, suspected of attempting to blow up commuters in Shepherd's Bush, west London, has given an extraordinary account of a plot hatched in a basement gym in Notting Hill, according to leaks from his interrogation by Italian investigating magistrates.

The suspected would-be bomber is reported to have denied links to the cell that killed 52 people two weeks earlier. But that outrage acted as a "signal" for the second gang to launch its own attack.

The 27-year-old Ethiopian-born Briton, also known as Isaac Hamdi, was questioned by two judges after being arrested in Rome on Friday.

"Rather than praying, we had discussions about work, politics, the war in Iraq," Hussain said of the gatherings in the gym, according to La Repubblicanewspaper and an Italian news agency.

The would-be bombers watched films, "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".

The propaganda helped to foster the group's "political conviction that it is necessary to give a signal, to do something", Hussain was quoted by La Repubblica as saying.

"We never had contacts with the Bin Laden organisation. We knew that they existed. We had access to their platforms through the internet, but nothing direct."

He told investigators the cell was surprised by the 7 July bombs. "We have no link with the Pakistanis," he said. However, his group took the 7 July carnage as a signal that it should also act.

According to another report, from the Ansa Italian news agency, Hussain said: "We had to do something. We had to react to the climate of hatred and hostility that was created after the 7 July bombs. We were not supposed to kill anyone. That bomb would not have been able to cause victims."

The Italian Interior Ministry confirmed that the quotes from Hussain's interrogation in La Repubblicaand the Corriere della Serawere authentic but declined to comment on the source of the leaks.

The suspect was interrogated from Friday afternoon in Rome's Regina Coeli prison by Judges Franco Ionta and Pietro Saviotti.

A court-appointed defence lawyer, Antonietta Sonnessa, declined to confirm the speculation that her client may have decided to turn state's evidence.

It was not clear that Britain's request for the suspect to be extradited would be granted. The first stage of a preliminary extradition hearing was held yesterday but Rome's Court of Appeal may rule he should remain in Italy as part of an investigation into the killing of an Italian citizen in the 7 July bombings.

If extradited, Hussain will join four other suspects being questioned at Paddington Green police station, three of who have been named as Muktar Said Ibrahim, Ramzi Mohammed and Yasin Hassan Omar. The fifth suspect has not been named.