Madrid experience points to group of foreign ringleaders

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Terrorist cells are primed for attack and will try to emulate the London bombings, ministers and security agencies warned yesterday. The spectre of a prolonged, attritional terrorist campaign appeared as investigators began the task of tracking one or more "masterminds" who may have helped to organise last Thursday's onslaught.

The senior operatives may have flown into Britain for the planning stage, then flown out. Security sources say several suspects are under consideration and urgent liaison continues with counterparts in Europe and the Middle East to track them.

Parallels are being drawn with the bombings of the commuter trains in Madrid, committed by an indigenous group, but with tactical help from Islamists in other parts of Europe.

The Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, in Brussels to chair a meeting of EU ministers, said the London bombers may well have been part of a "wider community" of terrorists with international links. "We have to assume there are others who are ready to do the kinds of things that these people did last Thursday," he added.

Scotland Yard's anti-terrorist branch said it would be "remarkably reckless" to rule out further attacks. During Tuesday's raids, a bath filled with explosives was found at a house in Alexandra Road, in the Hyde Park Road area of Burley. It had been stored, police believe, for other bombing missions. Senior officers said there may be more such arms dumps in different parts of the country.

Alex Standish, editor of Jane's Intelligence Digest, said: "Somebody must have some kind of training to assemble these bombs, and if there's a master bomb-maker at large there's a real risk [of] further attacks."

Another security analyst, Robert Emerson, said the controllers were more likely to have been involved in working out the strategy for the attack and ensuring secrecy was maintained. They would have brought the experience these four men are unlikely to have had.

"What is very worrying is that with the suicide attacks a line has been crossed, and other such attacks will follow because what was unthinkable in this country has now happened and will become an example to other like-minded young men," he added. "That, at least, has been the experience of other countries which have faced suicide attacks."

All four suicide bombers are of Pakistani origin and all had travelled to Pakistan recently. Shahzad Tanweer, who died in the Aldgate blast, had also visited Afghanistan, a friend said. At least two of the bombers are said to have family links with the Pakistani-controlled part of Kashmir. British authorities have asked the Pakistani government to check whether any of the men had trained in military camps run by Kashmiri separatists fighting in the Indian-controlled part of the province. British investigators to want to interview a 25-year-old British national of Pakistani descent who was arrested by Pakistani police in May in the North-West Frontier province. Pakistani authorities also claimed yesterday that British intelligence have also asked to speak to Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan, a computer technician held last year in Lahore who has links with the UK.

Shahzad Tanweer's friend, who refused to be named, said: "I heard he spent time studying Islam with preachers with very strong ideas. When he came back he went to hear extremist imams who had come from Pakistan."