Police hunt national terror cell after fourth attacker is traced to Aylesbury

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The Independent Online

After police released CCTV images of Hasib Hussain yesterday - rucksack on his back - at Luton station at 7.20 on the morning of the attacks (pictured page 1), anti-terrorist officers and MI5 are trying to track down other members of the terrorist unit. They are thought to include a bomb-maker and a planner. Among those being investigated is a man in his mid-40s who stayed at the Leeds house where the bombs were made, but left the country for Iraq months ago.

The man responsible for detonating the rucksack bomb outside King's Cross station, killing at least 25, was living in Aylesbury with his wife and was called Lindsay Jermalne. Known as "Jermal", he is thought to have driven about 20 miles to Luton station where he met the other three suicide attackers who had driven down from Leeds on Thursday morning. The terrorists travelled by train into King's Cross, where they split up and set off four bombs, killing at least 53 people.

A hire car thought to have been driven by Jermalne was found in the Luton station car park with explosives inside. Bomb experts detonated nine controlled explosions on the car before it was taken for forensic analysis.

Detectives believe the disclosure that one of the terrorist team had been living about 150 miles from the core of the suicide squad suggests a wider network of contacts, with the key figures possibly based in Luton.

There was confusion yesterday about spelling of the name of the King's Cross bomber and some suggestions it could be a false identity. The young man, who was a bodybuilder, apparently converted to Islam four years ago and worked as a carpet-fitter.

Police and the security services were investigating his background yesterday and tracing all his contacts over the past few months, at home and abroad. His rented semi-detached home in Northern Road, in the multiracial town of Aylesbury, was raided by armed police at 7pm on Wednesday. Forensic specialists spent yesterday examining the property for clues to the movements and identity of the gang.

The discovery that the fourth bomber comes from a different background to the other three extremists suggests that they are part of a wider network. Intelligence officers are trying to establish what links the two groups, whether they are both in contact with a radical cleric or have met in Pakistan.

The three Leeds bombers - Mohammad Sidique Khan, 30, Shahzad Tanweer, 22, and Hasib Hussain, 18, - are known friends, all British-born of Pakistani origin. As part of the Leeds inquiry, Army bomb-disposal experts were yesterday examining a former community centre in the Beeston area of Leeds.

The building, in Lodge Lane, is a short distance from the home of Tanweer, the bomber who killed seven in the Aldgate blast. The bombers may have met at the property. It had been assumed the fourth bomber was also from Leeds and was one of the Asian group.

Detectives will also consider possible connections with another British citizen from Jamaica who turned to terrorism. The best-known of the failed British suicide bombers is Richard Reid, from Brixton, south London, who was overpowered on 22 December 2002 while trying to light a cord in his shoe, the heel of which contained explosives, on a plane bound from Paris to Miami. Reid, a petty criminal who converted to Islam, was jailed for life in the US in 2003. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke, head of the Met's anti-terrorist branch, said yesterday that the police investigation had uncovered a "vast amount of information" but there were still many unanswered questions. He said: "Who actually committed the attacks? Who supported them? Who financed them? Who trained them? Who encouraged them? This will take many months of intensive, detailed investigation. This has been and still is a fast-moving investigation, with new leads emerging literally by the hour."

He added that officers had taken more than 500 witness statements and had seized more than 5,000 CCTV tapes. Mr Clarke said detailed forensic examinations were still continuing at the scenes of the blasts and that searches were being made in West Yorkshire and Aylesbury.

Peter Neyroud, Chief Constable of Thames Valley, said of the house raid in Aylesbury: "This development shows terrorism is not something that happens to other people, is not something that develops in large cities but can happen in rural Buckinghamshire. This is why it is so important for all of us to be alert, play our part and work together to conquer these criminals."

As part of the inquiry, antiterrorist police are continuing to trawl through thousands of hours of CCTV tapes, trying to trace the routes and contacts made by the four bombers. Reports that a "fifth" bomber was identified at Luton station standing with the four terrorists have been denied by two security sources. Instead, the police are investigating anyone who was seen near the bombers in case they have some association.

There have also been unconfirmed reports from the United States that the "mastermind" who co-ordinated the attacks is believed to be British and of Pakistani origin. Security sources say that several possible al-Qa'ida members are currently being investigated but that no one person has been identified yet as the prime suspect.

The mystery of the bus bomber's 'missing hour'

The suicide bus bomber went "missing" for an hour and 21 minutes before he detonated his explosive, killing a total of 13 people.

Anti-terrorist officers are appealing to the public for help in finding out where Hasib Hussain, 18, travelled and who he possibly met in the minutes leading up to his suicide attack.

Film from surveillance cameras have tracked the teenager leaving King's Cross station at 8.26am on Thursday, but there is no trace of him until he set off his bomb on the No 30 bus in Tavistock Square to the west at 9.47am.

Detectives are baffled as to why the young killer did not set off the bomb along with his fellow terrorists on Tube trains at 8.50am. Instead he waited nearly another hour.

It has been widely reported that the most likely reason was that Hussain was meant to travel north on the Northern line - with the other three heading south, east, and west - but was unable to complete this journey because the line was closed. However, Transport for London said yesterday that, although the Northern line had severe delays, it was working up to the time of the blasts. The bomber could also have travelled north on the Piccadilly line or the Victoria, but chose to go above ground. He probably walked around for several minutes before boarding the bus.

He may have lost his nerve, it could have been part of a plan, or he may have met up with a fellow terrorist or contact while in and around King's Cross.

Detectives have now appealed to the 80-odd people on the No 30 bus involved in the blast to contact them in case they remember seeing him getting on. Police released images from CCTV footage yesterday showing Hussain at Luton station at 7.20am after driving from Leeds.Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke, head of the anti-terrorist branch, said: "We need to establish his movements up until 9.47am and up until the explosion occurred in Tavistock Square. Did you see this man at King's Cross? Was he alone or with others? Do you know the route he took from the station? Did you see him get on to a No 30 bus? And if you did, where and when was that?"

It is unclear where exactly Hussain boarded the bus, which started its journey at Marble Arch at 9am. By 9.30am it was in Euston Road near the junction with Gower Street, heading east. The closure of King's Cross station on the route ahead, because of the attacks on the Underground, meant that the bus had to be diverted from its normal route, to travel south into Woburn Place and Tavistock Square.