Reaction In Yorkshire: 'This is a normal place where people do normal things'

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The Independent Online

Dewsbury, Burley and Beeston were - until yesterday - typical multicultural Yorkshire suburbs. Children playing on the streets, in front of houses where everybody knows the names, and often life stories, of their neighbours.

Bordering Leeds city centre, the areas are populated by families, many of whom work in manufacturing and the motor trade, with an occasional house rented by Leeds University students.

"This is just a normal community where people do normal things," one of the residents of Colwyn Road, Beeston, said in disbelief at the events over the past 24 hours. "There are lots and lots of families. Ordinary families," he said.

Residents were struggling to come to terms with the fact that they had been living in the midst of suspected suicide bombers. They gathered behind the blue and white police tape cordoning off a 50-yard stretch of Colwyn Road, shocked by the events that began with a series of police raids yesterday morning.

Police tape also sealed off a number of vehicles on Colwyn Road, including two Mercedes. A red Volkswagen parked directly outside the house being searched was also cordoned off.

Nathan Clark, who was evacuated from his home just around the corner from the house being searched in Burley, described the surprise felt in the neighbourhood. "People are just shocked," he said. "There's no other response. Everyone's just stood there in amazement that it's happened on their doorstep. People do feel it wasn't on their doorstep before and now it's been brought there."

Mr Clark had heard that the searches were connected to the London attacks. "We just suddenly heard all the police coming and people being asked to move back and move their cars out of the area," he said.

He said initially police had not explained what was going on. He said they had found out "through various officers that have told us as events have unfolded over a period of time".

Mr Clarkwas not initially worried about the implications of what was happening, as he was focusing on police instructions. "Concerns are really a thing that you think about second. It's getting into action, getting out of there, first of all."

Samina Khan, who has one child, said she was scared to travel on the bus back to her home, knowing that a suspected suicide bomber may have lived around the corner from her house. But she was also scared of the backlash her community would face at the hands of racists.

"Whether it is one of the lads or none of them, we all have to suffer," she said. "If these people are responsible, then I am scared getting on a bus myself, because they live round the corner. But I've also got to suffer people calling me 'Paki', even if these guys aren't responsible. This is as much a shock to me as it is to a non-Muslim. We live in this country and we can die in the same bomb."

Her friend was also scared, but said no one should rush to judge the situation. Like many in the community, she felt persecuted and said the latest revelations and police action would only amplify the sense of persecution.

"Because of this every Muslim has to suffer," she said. "If it is them, they have done harm for Muslims, but now we are going to pay for it. People are racist enough as it is."

Shaziyah Khan was shocked to see the cordons. "Our community is a peaceful community," she said. Muslims were as distressed by the bombs as anyone, she said. "We feel for the people in London; Muslims were some of the people in London. We feel for the families who lost their loved ones, but we also feel for the family on Colwyn Street who are a good family."

One man said: "There's lots of young families and people getting on with their lives here. The mosque here is a normal mosque and everyone gets on."

A young white man at the cordon said: "It's the young white lads round here that cause the problems. There's a huge problem with drugs."

Another property raided was a three-storey red-brick terrace house in Colenso Mount, Holbeck, Leeds. A neighbour's disbelief was obvious. "The lad was born here," he said. "He lived here all his life. They were very, very nice people. We all knew them but I wouldn't say I knew them well. They were just a very nice family."