Hasib Hussain: The boy who grew up to bomb the No 30 bus

Hasib Hussain and his three friends, Shahzad Tanweer, 22, Mohammed Sadique Khan, 30, and a man yet to be formally identified, have been revealed as the bombers responsible for last Thursday's atrocities

A few years later, however, Hussain was to become one of Britain's first home-grown suicide bombers at the age of 18. One week ago yesterday, he told his mother he was going to London with friends for the night. Once there, he boarded a No 30 bus and detonated the last of the four bombs that shook the capital.

Yesterday, the multicultural community of Holbeck was coming to terms with the fact that Hussain, known as a quiet boy always overshadowed by his gregarious older brother Imran, was a suicide bomber.

The teenager and his three friends, Shahzad Tanweer, 22, Mohammed Sadique Khan, 30, and a man yet to be formally identified, have been revealed as the bombers responsible for last Thursday's atrocities.

Today, as London prepares to stage a two-minute silence in memory of the victims, the story of how the friends from Leeds became Britain's most notorious terrorists is coming to light.

The hunt for the perpetrators of England's worst terrorist outrage now centres on Beeston, a run down area of south Leeds close to the M62 junction serving the city. It is this place that has emerged as the crucible in which the bomb plot was formed - a plot which has left more than 50 dead and hundreds more injured and maimed 200 miles south in London's transport system.

Hussain, Shazhad and Mohammed Khan met at the district's Stratford Street mosque. It is increasingly likely that the fourth bomber went there as well to exchange ideas with the friends. They disguised their murderous intent under the cloak of a popular and vibrant community, hidden amid the thousands of Muslims from south Leeds who come here to attend the area's three mosques and the popular Asian shops.

Acquaintances said Hussain was once as passionate about football as he was about cricket. He was a member of the Holbeck Hornets football team, belonged to a local cricket team and was often seen playing in his whites.

One of the last conversations he had with his parents was on Wednesday afternoon. He told his mother, Maniza, that he intended to travel down to London the next day with "a few of the lads". He was casual about his plans, according to a resident, who said he had told Mrs Hussain: "I might go to London for the night and come back tomorrow morning."

His mother saw him asleep on the sofa a few hours later. She thought nothing of his plans. "He goes to stay with friends two or three times a month," said the resident.

But two days later, Hussain had not returned. His parents became frantic with worry that he may have been caught up in the disaster. They tried to ring him but there was no answer. Eventually, at 10.20pm on Thursday, they went to the police to report his absence and hand in a picture of him.

Hussain's older brother Imran - known in the Holbeck community as "Immy" - was so concerned he got several friends together and drove to London to search for his brother, local people said yesterday. "They asked for him in police stations and hospitals," said a friend.

It took nearly a week to establish the truth. Far from being a victim of the bus bombing, he was found to have been the perpetrator. His driving licence and cash cards were found in the wreckage in Tavistock Square. A man who said he was Hasib Hussain's uncle said yesterday his nephew was not "the type'' to be a bomber. "He was a nice lad. He was really nice,"he said. "He wasn't the type of guy to do it. He wouldn't do it. I wish in my heart he was still alive."

A series of setbacks in Hussain's life may be behind a sudden change from a British Asian who dressed in Western clothes to a religious teenager who wore Islamic garb and only stopped to say salaam to fellow Muslims.

School created the first setback. After attending Ingram Primary, he moved up to Matthew Murray secondary- now the Holbeck campus of South Leeds College - in September 1998, where he was entered for a number of GCSEs. But he was withdrawn by teachers from his GCSEs and left on 20 July 2003 with a GNVQ in business studies.

He had always found an escape in football. But, about two years ago, the Hornets' pitch was closed down. At about the same time, Hussain seemed to disappear into another world, according to associates.

"He was really into cricket and football. We would get together every weekend, then they closed the pitch down. I never saw him much after that until six to eight weeks ago," said a friend.

It seems he thought he had found Islam. He grew a beard and began dressing in traditional Muslim clothes. When he was last spotted by the friend he had shaved off his beard. Al-Qa'ida analysts have claimed that may be a sign of a radicalised Muslim's intention to become a terrorist. The friend said: "I asked him why he had shaved off the beard. He said it was a long story and that he did not like one mosque saying one thing and another mosque saying that was the wrong way. When he heard so many arguments he thought, 'Forget it. I will go my own way'."

It seems that he found no answers from the devoutly Islamic household where he grew up. He was close to Imran, according to locals. Imran, believed to be 24, works as an administrator in Leeds, and he has a young daughter.

But, according to some, Hussain's parents despaired of him for a time when, in the words of another friend, he went "off the rails" as an adolescent and they made desperate attempts to instil discipline into him. His father, Mahmood, a devout Muslim, is in bad health and has been unable to hold down a regular job.

Like the other three bombers, Hasib Hussain had strong links to Beeston, where the Hussains travelled to shop at the Asian grocery stores. One shopowner said: "They came to mosque and their parents came to our store for spices."

Children from Beeston also travelled to Holbeck to Matthew Murray school, including one of the men believed to be the fourth suicide bomber. Although Hussain's parents did not know it, his fatal association with the three men who joined him last Thursday may have dated back to those formative years at Ingram Primary School.

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