Ian Blair, London’s police chief, warned that more bomber cells could strike after police arrested nine men under anti-terrorism laws early on Thursday morning in south London in connection with the investigation into bomb attacks on the capital.
“It does remain possible that those at large will strike again. It does also remain possible that there are other cells that are capable and intent on striking again.” Mr Blair told a meeting of the Metropolitan Police Authority.
British transport police said on Thursday that they had made their “largest deployment ever” on the London Underground in an effort to reassure the public amid a continued terrorist threat.
Police said the men arrested at two addresses in Tooting, were not the suspected failed bombers still being sought following the planned attacks on London’s transport network last Thursday July 21. All nine have been taken to a central London police station for questioning.
Late on Wednesday night Scotland Yard said three women were arrested in an operation in Stockwell on suspicion of harbouring offenders.
Yasin Hassan Omar, one of the men suspected of trying to detonate bombs on London’s transport network, was arrested on Wednesday following Britain’s biggest manhunt. The arrest of the 24-year-old Somali is potentially the most significant breakthrough in the investigation into last Thursday’s botched bomb attacks.
Mr Omar, suspected of trying to detonate a bomb near Warren Street Underground station, was seized in an early-morning raid on a house in Birmingham where police used a Taser stun gun to disable him. He was taken to Paddington Green high security police station in London. The first arrest of a suspected member of a home-grown suicide bomb cell offers investigators the clearest opportunity to gain knowledge of a British-based network which has so far eluded police. Investigators also will want to question Mr Omar about the suspected terror cell and the would-be bombers’ support networks and financing, along with possible links to the attacks of July 7, which killed more than 50 people in London.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke, head of the Metropolitan Police’s anti-terrorist branch, confirmed the 4.30am arrest of Mr Omar while he was alone in the house in the Small Heath area of Birmingham. “This is of course an important development in the investigation. However, I would stress how important it is for members of the public to remain watchful and alert.”
He said police were still hunting Muktar Said-Ibrahim, suspected of trying to set off a bomb on a No 26 bus in east London, and two other would-be bombers who are still to be positively identified. A suspect package was found at the Birmingham address, prompting evacuation of the immediate area, police said. Three other men were arrested in a separate raid in Birmingham.
Police released a new CCTV image of the man suspected of the attempted attack at Shepherd’s Bush station. He was pictured wearing a white vest on the No 220 bus from Wood Lane, near the station, to Wandsworth. As the investigation spread to the Midlands, another three properties in London were raided on Wednesday, including one in Stockwell, south London, near the Underground station where three of the would-be bombers assembled last week. The other two were in Enfield and Finchley, north London.
Wednesday’s raids came as investigations continued at a flat and garage in the north of the capital, registered in the name of Mr Omar.