London put on highest alert as first man is charged over terror attacks

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The Independent Online

The first person to be charged in connection with the July 21 attacks will appear in court this morning as London prepares to go on high alert again, with a massive armed police presence on the streets.

There will be more officers on patrol in the capital than ever before, including more than 3,000 marksman. Armed officers will be on duty on the bus, rail and Tube networks and outside key locations. Specialist firearms officers and the SAS will be on standby.

Senior officers have repeatedly warned that, despite the arrests of the four July 21 suspects, the threat of a further attack remains "very real". Last night Scotland Yard said Ismael Abdurahman, of Kennington, south-east London, had been charged with possessing information in relation to terrorist activities. He will appear before Bow Street magistrates' court this morning.

Mr Abdurahman was first arrested on 28 July on suspicion of harbouring an offender. The following day, he was rearrested under the Terrorism Act. The charge, under Section 38 of the Act, alleges that: "Between 23 July and 28 July he had information he knew or believed may be of material assistance in securing the apprehension, prosecution or conviction of another person in the UK for an offence involving the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism."

Fourteen other people are still being questioned in London and Sussex about the failed July 21 attacks, which mirrored the July 7 bombings. One other person arrested in Brighton at the weekend has been released without charge.

Those being questioned include the three suspects for the July 21 bombings, Muktar Said Ibrahim and Ramzi Mohammed, detained in west London last Friday and Yasin Hassan Omar, arrested in Birmingham last Wednesday. Hussain Osman, the fourth suspect, has been arrested in Italy; he is awaiting extradition.

As Londoners prepared for another Thursday of high security, Glen Smyth, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said that officers had endured an "exhausting regime" since the bombings and now needed "rest and recuperation". His warning echoed those from senior officers who have spoken of the force being "stretched" and of murder inquiries being scaled down.

Mr Smyth said: "Many [officers] are working 12-hour shifts, day in, day out. Allowing for the additional time they spend travelling to and from work, this represents an exhausting regime. Leave has been routinely cancelled and rest days scrubbed. If the prevailing situation is allowed to continue, the Metropolitan Police will become worn down to the point where its ability to protect London not only from terrorists but also from everyday robberies, burglaries, drunken disorder and other crime will be fatally compromised."

Meanwhile, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (Cica) yesterday defended itself against criticism that the level of compensation for the next of kin of the 52 people who died in the July 7 bombings was unacceptably low compared to that given by the United States to the families of the September 11 victims.

The Cica said payments to the bereaved would depend on age, earning potential and number of dependants, but stressed it was wrong to say the figure was limited to the basic sum of £11,000 or £5,500 if there is more than one applicant. The total could reach £500,000 to any individual or family, if the benefits were added together.

This included £2,000 a year to dependent children until they reach 18. The figure is capped. The injured could also claim compensation.

Mark Oaten, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, called for the Government to inject extra cash into the separate charity fund which had raised money for the victims.

He said: "The families and friends of victims will be dismayed by this level of compensation. This tiny sum is in stark contrast to the London Bombing Relief Charity Fund which has raised £6.5m for victims.

"The Government showed itself to be out of touch when it came to giving money to victims of the tsunami last Christmas. To avoid being so again it should at the very least match the total raised by the London Charity Fund."

Howard Webber, the authority's chief executive, said the £11,000 payment was only a small part of the package. "These amounts are set by Parliament and this bereavement payment, small though it is, is actually higher than would be awarded by the courts for the death of a loved one."

Fears of another attack have prompted Jason Gillespie, one of the Australian cricket team's bowlers, to say that he may consider pulling out of the Ashes tour. "I'd certainly consider it if another bomb went off," he told 3AW radio in Melbourne. "I can't speak for anyone else, but if something did happen here in England I would certainly think about it."

As Londoners head into work this morning, the Piccadilly line will be returning to normal service for the first time since 7 July.