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Working-class neighborhood obscured terrorist laboratory
Toronto Globe and Mail


July 13, 2005

LEEDS, England - On a summer evening, the Leeds neighborhood of Burley takes on a red-brick, working-class charm, as families sit on their front porches and eat fish and chips, and the thin walls of the tightly packed row houses echo with domestic bluster.

It is a ramshackle, urban mix of tie-dyed students playing their music from top-floor windows, Jamaican families cooking fish-head stew in the back yard, and a great many Pakistanis, of every imaginable faith and occupation.

It is the kind of neighborhood where the Mahmood Halal Butcher sits next door to Luciano's Pizza, Donairs, Burgers and Southern Fried Chicken, whose sign unfortunately reads "Fastest Gun in the West - Leaves the Rest for Dead."

Unfortunately, because right across the road is the ugly council-owned townhouse that appears to have been the laboratory that produced the bombs that killed more than 50 people in a terrifying series of explosions on the London transit system last week.

Into this house, on irregular occasions and in a variety of subcompact cars, shuttled the four young men who police now believe killed themselves in the bombings. It was also visited by a number of older men who may have been the ringleaders, recruiters and trainers of their Islamist terrorist cell. For that reason, and because the house may well be packed with explosives, investigators were virtually taking the building apart last night, and moved out 600 of the neighborhood's residents.

But the four now suspected of being the bombers did not hail from these rough-and-tumble quarters.

In at least two cases, they seem to have come from comfortable middle-class backgrounds, where there was little to suggest that they would become major terrorists.

Shahzad Tanweer lived in the relatively prosperous Beeston neighborhood of Leeds, home to many merchants from the Indian subcontinent. He was known to his friends as a fanatical cricket player, and for driving his father's Mercedes around the local streets.

On the Wednesday night before the attacks, his friends told reporters this week, he played cricket late into the night. He was also known for his devotion to jujitsu - not surprising, as he had studied sports science at Leeds University.

But because he did not wear traditional clothing or pray in public, many of his friends were not aware that he regularly attended the local mosque, which most people here consider moderate.

His father, Mohammed Mumtaz, was born in Pakistan but spent most of his life in England.

Shahzad Tanweer was a close friend of Hasib Hussain, 18, who lived in a seedy suburban neighborhood nearby, in a $180,000 semi-detached house owned by his parents. His parents were born in Pakistan, but he was English born and bred.

As a teenager, Hasib "went off the rails," neighbors said, getting into trouble with truancy and minor crime. They were relieved when he suddenly became devoutly religious two years ago.

A more mature, mysterious figure is Mohammed Sadique Khan, 30, who is married to a former city-council employee, has a young child and lives in Dewsbury, about an hour outside of Leeds.

He met his wife while the two were studying at the university in Leeds. They were known in the Pakistani community for being less traditional in dress and custom than some of their peers.

Later, he began leaving his house early in the morning carrying a bag, and made some visits to Pakistan. Police surrounded his house yesterday with scaffolds and entered it wearing protective suits.

The fourth suspect is more of a mystery. Some reports said he lives in Luton, where the men gathered.

What is clear is this: They woke up in the very early hours of July 7, drove a small rental car to Luton, where they arrived at 7 a.m. and bought a day parking pass. They boarded a commuter train, which arrived at King's Cross at 8:20. Security cameras show them smiling and seeming relaxed before they bought their Underground and bus tickets and headed off to meet their individual fates.


Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service,

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